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Web of Trust - Untrustworthy!

An odd thing happened while I was setting up a new computer a few weeks ago. WOT, a standard extension I've installed and promoted for years, was not available! This popular add-on was downloaded over 140 million times! I checked if it was available on Chrome. It was not. As I investigated, I found out that a report from Germany-based Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) determined that the company behind the add-on, WOT Services, was selling users' browser histories without anonymizing the data. They had exposed personal information. NDR is the German equivalent to PBS in the United States. They did an extensive investigation and found that they could link some individuals to:

  • Account name
  • Mail address
  • Travel plans
  • Illnesses
  • Sexual preference
  • Drug consumption
  • Confidential company information
  • Ongoing police investigations
  • Browser surfing activity including all sites visited

Something changed a year ago as WOT moved from being an open source project to a closed source revenue generating company. The problems were further compounded when reports came in of a serious bug in the code (now closed source). This bug, if real, would allow people using WOT from outside to control your computer and access virtually anything. Since the add-on is no longer available, any potential fix is also not available.

How to remove it

I removed it. You may want to as well. Given both the bug and the reselling of information, it is probably good to remove it.

  • Pull down the menu (3 bars in the upper right corner)
  • Select Add-ons
  • Choose Extensions
  • Find WOT
  • Click Remove

What now?

I feel very exposed doing searches and going to unknown websites without the ability to check whether I can trust them. I can find nothing like WOT currently available. WOT offered information like whether the site hosted sexual or hate content and whether they were untrustworthy, according to people who dealt with them.

I began experimenting with other products that could provide some protection. The best I found was BitDefender's TrafficLight. BitDefender is a long standing and respected security firm. Their product does these things:

It has free extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. It stays out of the way and is simple. There are some reports of it slowing down browsing, but I am not having that problem.

It adds a little traffic light in the upper right corner which is green. If it spots trackers on the site, it reports them. However, it doesn't seem to find very many of the trackers. This site had 26 of them, though my privacy badger add-on may have stopped some so they didn't reach TrafficLight. If you click the icon, TrafficLight reports what the identified trackers were.

As for the Search filtering, this is what it shows when it works.

Date: November 2016

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