Latex Gloves: Protecting Browser Extensions from Probing and Revelation Attacks


Browser extensions enable rich experience for the users of today’s web. Being deployed with elevated privileges, extensions are given the power to overrule web pages. As a result, web pages often seek to detect the installed extensions, sometimes for benign adoption of their behavior but sometimes as part of privacy-violating user fingerprinting. Researchers have studied a class of attacks that allow detecting extensions by probing for Web Accessible Resources (WARs) via URLs that include public extension IDs. Realizing privacy risks associated with WARs, Firefox has recently moved to randomize a browser extension’s ID, prompting the Chrome team to plan for following the same path. However, rather than mitigating the issue, the randomized IDs can in fact exacerbate the extension detection problem, enabling attackers to use a randomized ID as a reliable fingerprint of a user. We study a class of extension revelation attacks, where extensions reveal themselves by injecting their code on web pages. We demonstrate how a combination of revelation and probing can uniquely identify 90% out of all extensions injecting content, in spite of a randomization scheme. We perform a series of large-scale studies to estimate possible implications of both classes of attacks. As a countermeasure, we propose a browser-based mechanism that enables control over which extensions are loaded on which web pages and present a proof of concept implementation which blocks both classes of attacks.

26th Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium, NDSS 2019, San Diego, California, USA, February 24-27, 2019