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Are Chrome Apps and Extensions Safe?

This conversation will get my blood boiling in a New York minute. I recently posted a question on Google+ (link)
How do you know whether or not you can trust a Chrome App or Extension? For example there is an APP out there that seems to have modified my "file" manager offering to install some "services" from this fellow Tanaka. I'm sure he's a fine fellow but he has no obligation or compliance requirement that his code is not going to (a) steal my data and export is someplace else (b) steal my credential and send them someplace else.
Simply put the Chrome user base has absolutely no assurance that the software we are running is true, reliable and safe. Or do we? Ask yourself why Angry Birds needs access to my Contacts.
There were some typical responses that all sound like "if it hurts don't do it"; but frankly that's bullshit. The entire world has come to depend on free software of every kind. Many businesses exist only to serve or use free software.

One fellow responded; "The code is on github". Phew that makes me sleep better. Since the compiled code is done somewhere else and the binaries are keyed and packaged on another system I feel so much safer. There is nothing to guarantee that the code on github is the code that was compiled and is executing on my computer and when I gave it permission to talk to ANY computer on my local and "the internet" I feel so much safer. (I hope you read my sarcasm).

He continued: "The permissions are justified". Well he's kinda right here but justified it the wrong word. Required would be more like it. It's kinda hard to deploy a network program if it cannot talk to the network. But since the security demands of this permission set is so low you can leak data at will.

Finally he said: "Tanaka is working upstream...". I do not know this person first hand. I did not go to school with him and I certainly do not sit around and chat code, politics, or religion. He might be a fine fellow but I'm pointing out the fundamental flaw. "We" clearly need a curated and blessed application store. That Tanaka has his own build process is meaningless. That his code is not reviewed for evil is BS. Google needs a way to bless apps and extensions.

This is more than the Cathedral and the Bazaar. The book should be renamed Cathedral, Bazaar, and the Underworld.


By comparison; let me talk about the homebrew package manager. One of the interesting things about homebrew is that when it installs the requested packages; they are installed in user-space instead of root as many applications do. And the "recipes" in the system direct the build agent running on your computer how to build the application and which version of the source was the latest to be trusted. Of course trust being the operative word. Sadly if the package author and the package submitter are the same person then it is upon the homebrew owners to curate the source. The good news is that there is an alpha/beta channel and with any luck there is an informal code review, however, it's not a guarantee.

PS: if an app or extension needs access to the entire internet I should be able to flip a switch that limits the domains that it can talk to... maybe only my *,, This is not the same, but is similar, to prevent kids from surfing to instead of In my case I need to SFTP to a white-list of servers. Never the internet as a whole.


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