Browser extensions: safe or not?

Extensions add useful features to browsers. But like other programs, they can be a threat to your computer's security. We tell you how serious this threat is and how to counter it.

An extension (also known as an addon or plug-in) is a mini-program that adds a missing feature or personalized setting to the browser. Manager notes, blocking pop-up windows, managing passwords and tabs, IP address spoofing - these and other convenient options can be obtained by installing the appropriate addon.

Extensions definitely make browsing easier. But many users are concerned about security: are there any dangerous extensions? Do I need to follow any rules when downloading them? All these questions have answers.

How do browser extensions work?

Browser add-ons open up new ways to interact with websites: some block unwanted operations such as content autoplay, banner ads and etc., others allow you to save videos and music from sites where this function is not provided in one click.

They are based on well-known web technologies and programming languages ​​ HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Both browser developers (Google Chrome, Mozilla, etc.) and third-party companies, such as Evernote, are involved in their creation.

Most extensions have partial or full access to everything you do online. They can analyze browsing history, collect passwords, and even tailor advertisements based on search queries.

They rarely receive such wide rights automatically. In most cases, full access is allowed by the user himself - sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The description of some plugins explicitly states that they are able to read and modify data on all the sites that you visit. Ignore the warning - and along with a useful feature, you will get a browser spy.

Are browser extensions safe?

In short, yes and no. Most often, the danger is not the addons themselves, but the permissions that you give them during installation.

Most modern browsers manage addons using a permissions system. Sometimes these permissions require the bare minimum. For example, the desired action can be launched only by clicking on the extension or only on certain sites. The positive point is that the user himself controls the capabilities of add-ons.

But there are pitfalls. Some addons refuse to work until you receive permission to work on all sites and full access to all the actions of the user, which already in words sounds anxious. This is the first bell that the plugin performs some hidden operations.

As browser expansions create a safety threat

, addons for browsers are a potential threat to personal and computer security. They can perform the following dangerous actions:

  • Work as keyloggers, that is, stealing data for entering accounts (keylogger can intercept all symbols entered from the keyboard, Therefore, it represents a danger to many types of information, primarily associated with finance).
  • Redirect the search traffic to another place.
  • Download malware, advertising software and trojans on the computer.
  • Analyze your browser history and sell it to third parties, such as advertisers.
  • Updated without user's knowledge (in fact, any, even useful and safe extension can turn into a source of problems if it is hacked).

No, even the most secure browser will not be able to protect you from cybergroms, if you carelessly handle extensions. In 2020, Google had to remove from online store Chrome 106 plugins when it turned out that they were used to collect personal data. It turns out, even advanced analysis tools do not always recognize the unreliable programs at the stage of adding to the store.

How to eliminate the risks associated with browser extensions

measures for the most part uncomplicated.

Try not to set a lot of extensions

The less there will be, the better. Modern browsers have a lot of customizable functions and in general do not need additional plugins. At least the task scheduler and news tapes can be defined by regular means.

The functions of beneficial extensions over time become part of popular browsers. It makes no sense to duplicate existing add-on options and expose your computer at risk.

When installing extensions, use proven sources

as mobile applications, addons for browsers should be installed from reliable and proven stores - Chrome Web Store, Addons Mozilla, Addons Opera, etc.

Primitively simple extensions with quick installation should be saved: it is impossible to predict what tasks they will be engaged in addition to the declared in the description.

It is important to pay attention to the name of the creator. With addons from unknown developers to configure popular services such as Gmail or YouTube, you should not communicate. They can be used to steal personal data or be a source of malware.

Expansion from authoritative developers from Legal Google and Microsoft shops in 99.9% of cases is safe and not sold by third-party companies that could abuse them with functionality.

Owners of large content stores spend a lot of effort and security forces. Google uses machine learning to search and block malicious extensions. Mozilla also checks automatic tools. But again: no checking is perfect, therefore you also need something - caution and conscious approach.

Reliable from unnecessary addons in a timely manner

If the extension is idle without work and in the foreseeable future, it is not foreseen in it, Remove it.

Clean the list of installed addons from irrelevant from time to time. So you will reduce the risks to face malicious software, if one of the legal and safe extensions suddenly ceases to be such.

Getting rid of unnecessary superstructures, you optimize the work of the browser.

How to delete expansion in the browser? The answer to this question depends on what browser speech. In Chrome, this operation is performed simply: To remove a specific plugin, right-click its icon in the upper right corner of the window and select the "Delete" option. In the extended list of options (three vertical points in the upper right corner) there are "additional tools". Select this section and find "Extensions" in it. There you can view a list of all installed addons and remove unnecessary.

It is not surprising that browser expansions are popular, and no one wants to abandon them completely. But we must not be forgotten that on the Internet it is impossible to blindly trust. Be sure to find out the developer's name and the expansion history before pressing the "Set" button.

Addons do not need a lot. Try to do with the functions that are already present in the browser, and timely get rid of the extensions that have lost the relevance for you.

These simple measures are the key to secure work with the browser.