Browser extensions are small pieces of software that can be installed on web browsers in order to add new features, modify existing ones, or improve the usability of the browser itself. While most extensions are harmless and even useful, there is always the potential for abuse, particularly when it comes to privacy.
Extensions are prime targets for attackers because they are granted specific permissions within the browser. The issues and security dangers associated with Chrome extensions appear to be growing; for years, the security tests for browser extensions have not been adequate. Malicious extensions are now available in the browser web stores.
Is total security possible when using browser extensions?
Safe extensions operate statically and don't connect to external services. Extensions that connect to a server to retrieve data are more vulnerable since malicious actors target them to hack the domain name or the communication servers. Although many endpoint security solutions examine extensions, they cannot ensure total security. Because of how Chrome extensions behave, it is very challenging to monitor and safeguard them from outside. Consequently, theft of usernames, passwords, and user data gathering becomes difficult to identify and prevent.
Even authorized extensions and plug-ins can cause privacy concerns. Such programs may gather information their developers may use, distribute, or sell. Moreover, it can be challenging to ascertain what data is being gathered and how it is used.
What are browser app stores doing about this?
To address privacy concerns, browser stores now include links to the developer privacy policies. The aim is to provide the users with additional information about how their data gets handled. However, occasionally plug-ins and extensions are transferred from one business to another, changing both their owners and privacy policies.
What are the risks posed by browser extensions?
Browser extensions can do almost anything based on the level of permissions granted. It may act as a keylogger to record your passwords and credit card information, display advertisements on the pages you visit, reroute your search traffic, and monitor everything you do online.
A permission mechanism exists in modern web browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, but many extensions need complete access. However, even an extension that only needs to access a specific website could be harmful. For instance, a Google.com extension that alters the site will need access to everything on Google.com, allowing it to access your email and Google account. It is exceedingly risky to authorize an extension that scans your entire email.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Installing Browser Extensions
Here are some ways you can prevent browser extensions from invading your privacy:
Before installing an extension, ensure it is a genuine extension from the developer and not an unreliable source. You may check the authenticity by visiting the developer's website.
Read the summary. Look for anything dubious, such as tracking information or data exchange. Always remember that the devil is in the details. Read the fine print carefully before downloading an extension.
Read the testimonials. Look for users reporting strange events, conjecturing that their data has been stolen, or anything else that seems odd.
Things To Keep in Mind After You Install Browser Extensions
Here are a few essential pointers to ensure the browser extension is not malicious:
Be picky: The more extensions you install, the larger the attack surface you expose to attackers. Select only the most helpful ones, then get rid of the rest.
Be cautious: If an extension you recently installed seeks new permissions, it’s advisable to uninstall it if you can't figure out why new permissions are needed.
Extensions have gained popularity due to their ability to improve the browsing experience. The best course of action is to avoid using browser extensions altogether if you don't require them. If you must use them, take the necessary precautions to ensure your privacy is not compromised.