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Google, Microsoft can get your passwords via web browser's spellcheck - BleepingComputer

Google, Microsoft can get your passwords via web browser's spellcheck - BleepingComputer

Google, Microsoft can get your passwords via web browser's spellcheck - BleepingComputer
Sep 17, 2022 2 mins, 33 secs

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

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

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

Although the transmission of form fields is happening securely over HTTPS, it may not be imminently clear as to what happens to user data once it reaches the third-party, in this example, Google's server

"The Enhanced spell check feature requires an opt-in from the user," a Google spokesperson confirmed to BleepingComputer

Note, that this is in contrast to the basic spellchecker that is enabled in Chrome by default and does not transmit data to Google

To review if Enhanced spell check is enabled in your Chrome browser, copy-paste the following link in your address bar

As evident from the screenshot, the feature's description explicitly states that with Enhanced spell check enabled, "text that you type in the browser is sent to Google."

The 'spellcheck' HTML attribute when left out from form text input fields is usually assumed by web browsers be true by default

"Alternatively, you could add it to just the form fields with sensitive data

Ironically enough, we observed Twitter's login form, which comes with the "show password" option, has the password field's "spellcheck" HTML attribute explicitly set to true:

As an added safeguard, Chrome and Edge users can turn off Enhanced Spell Check (by following the aforementioned steps) or remove the Microsoft Editor add-on from Edge until both companies have revised extended spellcheckers to exclude processing of sensitive fields, like passwords


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