Google, Microsoft can get your passwords via web browser’s spellcheck
By Ax Sharma September 17, 2022 02:39 PM
Extended spellcheck features in Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge web browsers transmit form data, including personally identifiable information (PII) and in some cases, passwords, to Google and Microsoft respectively.
While this may be a known and intended feature of these web browsers, it does raise concerns about what happens to the data after transmission and how safe the practice might be, particularly when it comes to password fields.
Both Chrome and Edge ship with basic spellcheckers enabled. But, features like Chrome’s Enhanced Spellcheck or Microsoft Editor when manually enabled by the user, exhibit this potential privacy risk.
Spell-jacking: That’s your spellcheck sending PII to Big Tech
When using major web browsers like Chrome and Edge, your form data is transmitted to Google and Microsoft, respectively, should enhanced spellcheck features be enabled.
Depending on the website you visit, the form data may itself include PII—including but not limited to Social Security Numbers (SSNs)/Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), name, address, email, date of birth (DOB), contact information, bank and payment information, and so on.
In cases where Chrome Enhanced Spellcheck or Edge’s Microsoft Editor (spellchecker) were enabled, “basically anything” entered in form fields of these browsers was transmitted to Google and Microsoft.
“Furthermore, if you click on ‘show password,’ the enhanced spellcheck even sends your password, essentially Spell-Jacking your data,” explains otto-js in a blog post.
“Some of the largest websites in the world have exposure to sending Google and Microsoft sensitive user PII, including username, email, and passwords, when users are logging in or filling out forms. An even more significant concern for companies is the exposure this presents to the company’s enterprise credentials to internal assets like databases and cloud infrastructure.”
Users may often rely on the “show password” option on sites where copying-pasting passwords is not allowed, for example, or when they suspect they’ve mistyped it.
To demonstrate, otto-js shared the example of a user entering credentials on Alibaba’ Cloud platform in the Chrome web browser—although any website can be used for this demonstration.
With enhanced spellcheck enabled, and assuming the user tapped “show password” feature, form fields including username and password are transmitted to Google at googleapis.com.
Roy Miehe | MspPortal Partners Inc. | Ceo/President
Security Software Distributor: Bitdefender , Barracuda, RackSpace, Axcient
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