Back when Google’s Chrome browser was brand new in the browser market and demonstrating how poor Microsoft’s Internet Explorer security was in comparison, it was easy to recommend it as the faster, more secure option. However, with market share comes concessions to convenience and feature-creep, and it seems that Google may be stretching itself too thin to be the browser on everything and for everyone. Aside from the rather disturbing and glaring security flaw pointed out earlier this year in the desktop versions of Chrome (and steadfastly refuted by Google…until it was fixed), Chrome has typically been viewed as the “most secure” of the big three Windows browsers (the other two being IE and Firefox).
Unfortunately, security firm Identity Finder has burst this bubble by revealing another weakness in Chrome. In the spirit of convenience, Chrome offers to save information used to fill out the countless webforms we all run into on a daily or even hourly basis while surfing. Most of these fields are what would be considered personally identifying information (names, addresses, account numbers, etc.) and Chrome stores them in plain text on your hard drive so as to be able to retrieve them for autopopulating other web forms. The problem with this, of course, is that anyone with access to your hard drive can read that data and use it to nefarious ends. And in case you’re still trying to sort out why this is bad, access isn’t limited to someone working on your computer or stealing your hard drive. Unauthorized access is most often gained now through malware infections.
What this means for you:
Sadly, achieving better security is no longer simply a matter of changing your browser, no matter how much any company (even Google!) would have you believe otherwise. If you want to disable the above mentioned “feature” in Chrome, you can do so by visiting Settings -> Advanced Settings -> Passwords and Forms and unchecking “Enable Autofill to fill out web forms in a single click.” You should never rely on just a browser choice to determine the totality of your security. Good security is a combination of browser choice, settings, malware protection and constant vigilance. Chrome still remains a solid choice as a browser but beware convenience features like Autofill and saving passwords in your browser, as this convenience may come at the price of security.