Chrome Security

Google’s Chrome Has Updated Security Features. The Trade Off Is Less Customer Privacy

Google are in the process of updating three new security features in Chrome to help users get rid of software infections. Their initiative followed a recent adblock extension attack on the Chrome Store that was downloaded more than 37,000 times.  The security updates will enhance the browser’s ability to detect and eliminate invasive extensions and software alongside other Chrome tools like SafeBrowsing API. Google has also collaborated with the security firm ESET who have a detection algorithm which looks for violations and removes intrusive software.

The first new safeguard implemented makes it harder for extensions to make changes to the user’s default browser settings, including the search engine, homepage, or proxy settings.  When this occurs Chrome gives a simple warning which can reverse changes as shown below.

The second security addition has redesigned the current Chrome Cleanup feature, making it easier to removed bundled software installed by third-party extensions without the user’s knowledge. Earlier it was offered as a standalone app but now it is included with Chrome for Windows by default and runs automatically to detect when unwanted software is installed, affecting Chrome’s settings and behavior. When this happens, the feature prompts a popup which enables the user to remove the software and return Chrome to its default settings as shown below.

In the event of the notification popups being accidentally deleted or if an extension has affected several settings simultaneously, Google offers the option now of being able to reset the entire user profile with a single click.

The third security update involves scanning all downloaded software and recording this data using the upgraded Cleanup engine. Google does this through its integration with ESET’s detection engine combined with Chrome’s sandbox technology. The new Cleanup is similar to  Microsoft’s anti-malware SmartScreen filters in Windows 10. It is not an antivirus but can remove software that does not comply with Google’s unwanted software policy.

Whether this setting will remain optional or inbuilt into Chrome is unclear at this point of time but it is controversial because of the data Google will be able to collect. Eric Schmidt, a former Google CEO, mentioned in a recent interview that Google was in the advertising business, the implication being that the company makes money by using data to monitor and tap into consumer preferences or enabling other companies to do so. So, while the new security features in Chrome benefit users, they also give Google insights into purchasing patterns and consumer preferences. What the company bargains on is that consumers are more interested in what benefits them, even if it compromises their privacy.