A favorite browser extension acquired by a disliked antivirus company

Increase / Almost every major site warns you of cookies, and it’s a shame that they share a nickname with one of life’s greatest pleasures.

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The browser extension I don’t care about cookies does one job and it does it well. Automatically removes the annoying but mandatory “This site uses cookies” notifications from websites. People like it, donate and don’t ask for more, which is a rare find for free software.

“Shit, this is a **** brother, he saved like 50 minutes of my gaming time,” we read in one review on the Microsoft Edge Add-Ons website.

The tone changed when the solo developer posted “BIG NEWS” on the expansion page. Avast, the cybersecurity giant that has just completed a $ 8.1 billion merger with NortonLifeLock, will acquire 10-year software at an undisclosed price.

“I am proud and happy to say that Avast … a well-known and trustworthy IT company, known for its wide range of products that help secure our digital experience, appreciated its value!” – programmer Daniel Kladnik wrote recently. Kladnik wrote that he would continue to work on the extension, it would remain free of charge, and asked to cease donations.

Commentators on Facebook, Twitter, and the various installation pages of the extension did not agree with Avast’s characteristics by Kladnik. “Congratulations on killing the extension!” Avast is cancer on this planet, ”wrote a Facebook commentator. “The cure is worse than the disease now,” wrote another. “It’s sad that a great pop-up blocker was purchased by a well-known pop-up company,” said someone on the Chrome extension page.

There is always some instinctive “uninstall” reaction to a software hijack, but an extension that supports Avast’s hijacked cookie policy raises some questions. (We contacted both Kladnik and Avast and will update the post with new information.)

In addition to the overall scale and scope of the recently merged Norton / Avast entity (cleaned up just four days ago) and long before it, Avast released news regarding its data management history.

Avast closed its Jumpshot data brokerage operation in 2020 after a joint investigation by Vice and PCMag revealed that its antivirus programs were selling browsing data to some of the world’s largest companies, including Home Depot, Google, and Microsoft (and revealed to Ars Technica by Condé Nast ). The data included Google searches, Google Maps GPS coordinates, and cross-site searches, including YouTube and PornHub. Jumpshot advertised itself as “the only company to unlock data in a walled garden” and, in no time now deleted tweetpraised his ability to collect “Every search. Every click. Every purchase. On every site. ”

In 2019, the developer of AdBlock Plus dug into the Avast Online Security browser extension (and a similar one from AVG that Avast acquired). The extension sent out detailed information about the pages visited, activity on those pages and other data that made de-anonymising people quite easy. Google shortly after removing Avast and AVG extensions from Chrome Web Store.

In its main security business, Avast made one significant mistake in distributing a smaller application it acquired. CCleaner, a tool to remove all Windows software completely, was distributed by Avast when it contained malware. Malware that allowed remote access and control via a seemingly legitimate signing certificate was placed by an attacker on CCleaner update servers via a third party acquired by Avast.

Avast, a Czech company that has been operating since 1988, has also contributed to significant research and safety discoveries for more than three decades. In recent years, Avast found 28 infected browser extensions (in 2020), exposed a backdoor to a federal agency (in 2021), and raised an alert for a Chrome vulnerability used to attack journalists and other specific targets.

The “I don’t care about cookie” alternatives mentioned by sites and users include Consent-O-Matic and many other extensions that do not even have a similar 10-year history or do not include Kladnik extension overviews. You can of course continue to use the extension and keep a close eye on the updates.

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