Can Google’s Chrome Browser Be Used To Eavesdrop?

Could hackers be listening to you through the Chrome browser? That's the claim of a developer, even though Google denies the possibility.

On Wednesday, Israeli developer Tal Ater wrote on his blog that there is a vulnerability in Google's Chrome browser that could allow malicious sites to listen and "record anything said in your office or your home, as long as Chrome is still running."

Users are normally required to click in order to grant permission every time a site wants to use your computer's microphone, such as accepting voice commands for search. Chrome will show a red dot that blinks as the recording occurs, similar to a physical recording device.

Pop-Under Window

But, Ater said, when a user clicks the on-screen button to start recording, the site requesting permission "may have also opened another hidden pop-under window." Pop-unders are sometimes displayed by sites to show additional advertising.

The pop-under window, he said, can "start listening in without asking for permission," so that the granted permission is continued in "a window that you never saw, never interacted with, and probably didn't even know was there." Additionally, although the pop-under window could continue the recording surreptitiously, it is not required to show the blinking red recording dot, as the main window is.

Ater pointed out that most sites with speech recognition use secure HTTPS connections, which means that, once permission is given by a user for the mic, "Chrome will remember your choice, and allow the site to start listening in the future, without asking permission again."

A demo video on his blog describes this flaw as essentially "turning Google Chrome into an espionage tool that compromises the privacy in your office or your home, even when you're not using your computer." The video contends that the flaw can be programmed to stay dormant and "only start...

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