Are Browser Extensions Safe to Use?

Browser extensions. We all love them, we all need them, but are they really safe to use? Keep reading to find out!

Who doesn’t love browser extensions? With them, you can block ads, play games, find deals, and do so much more. And lucky for us, there’s a browser extension for almost anything you can imagine.

Unfortunately, not all extensions are created the same. Learn about the different threats that can appear from browser extensions and how to protect yourself from them below.

Before We Get Started

Like all things, prevention is the best medicine. You can prevent the types of damage that malicious browser extensions and other online threats can do just by using essential cybersecurity tools and strategies.

Tablet connected to VPN

 

Of them, the most effective and easy to use daily is a VPN. VPNs anonymize and encrypt your internet connection, making it much less vulnerable to cyber-attacks. And they have a variety of other amazing benefits as well.

So why not try one for yourself? If you’re interested in doing that, check out this NordVPN coupon.

Why Do We Even Need Browser Extensions?

Because they’re awesome, and add functionality as well as flexibility, to your web experience.

You can use them to translate webpages, run scripts to play games, and do everybody’s favorite task—block ads.

That’s why all the popular browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge all support them. In fact, many security extensions are really helpful, and when combined with VPNs can help protect you from digital threats. You just have to know how to recognize malicious ones.

The Bad Extensions

Browser web stores do claim that they vet the extensions on them. But this isn’t always the case.

In 2018, security researchers uncovered four malicious extensions that looked like harmless sticky note apps. In reality, those extensions tricked users into clicking pay-per-click ads.

White caution cone on keyboard

And that’s just the beginning. Some extensions can even be used to spread malicious code, while others may harvest your personal information.

Extensions are able to do this because you give them permission to read and change all data on the websites you visit. This gives them a huge amount of freedom on what they can do with your data in the process.

Hijacking and Other Threats

Fraudsters target extensions because of their massive userbases and the permissions described above. In some instances, hackers may target developers directly, as in the case of Copyfish. Once the cybercriminals stole Copyfish’s login credentials, they then served ads to Copyfish’s users profiting from that.

In other examples, extensions may get bought out and turned into adware. Either way, users need to be careful.

Hacker

But most extensions aren’t malicious. Instead, they are a bit intrusive. How?

Well, since extension can collect a lot of information about people and in that way put them at risk. Most extension developers earn their money only by selling anonymized data to third parties. And while this is legal, sometimes, the data may not be anonymized enough.

This happened to Web of Trust, a popular Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer plugin. As it turns out, it collected full browsing histories without anonymizing user data, putting the users at great risk of cyber-attacks and other threats.

How to Use Browser Extensions Safely

Don’t worry. You don’t have to give up your favorite extensions, but you do need to take some precautions.

The most important things that you need to keep an eye on are all your extensions and their permissions. If anything seems suspicious, even if it’s from a reputable developer, remove the extension.

Likewise, be sure to follow these steps:

  • Limit your extensions. Not only do browser extensions affect performance, but they’re also potential attack vectors. The more you limit them, the better.
  • Install only from the official web store. Web stores do make mistakes, as mentioned earlier, but they at least do some filtering and testing, which is better than nothing.
  • Check reviews. If people have good things to say, that’s a good sign, especially if they talk about security.

Use Privacy Tools As Well With all Browser Extensions

We already mentioned how VPNs are essential internet privacy and security tools. Besides that, look into additional software solutions.

Nowadays, you can use apps to scan and remove malicious code in browser extensions. Combine that with built-in tools like Windows Defender in order to keep an eye on your security at all times.

Also remember, that at the end of the day, browser extensions are just one of the many places where you can find threats online. By integrating VPN and antivirus software, you’ll make not only your internet browser but everything else you use on your computer much safer.

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Published on June 18, 2020 by Peter Hughes. Filed under: , , .

Peter Hughes is a digital marketing consultant and author. Peter has more than 10 years of experience in SEO and Internet marketing.

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