Using browser extensions when exploring the internet is like driving on a bad road full of pits. The risks involved come from their capabilities of gathering large amounts of user data, and sometimes the user’s identity isn’t protected, which can result in severe privacy issues. Also, sometimes these extensions come from malicious sources, which can mean a great threat to the security of the user’s device.
What Is a Browser Extension?
Browser extensions provide a web browser with supplementary features that are either fun to use or enhance the internet browsing experience. They can also change the user interface or complement certain web service functions within the browser.
Extensions are able to achieve numerous functions. They act like any type of software, even though the browsers themselves set certain limits on what they are able to perform. If you want browser integration with a service or to receive a particular functionality, then you are most likely going to achieve this by adding an existing extension.
Examples of Vulnerable Browser Extensions
A recent example of the concerns surrounding browser extensions can be seen in the Grammarly extension, which revealed its authentication tokens to every website that a user visited. Hence, any website would be able to pretend to be a legitimate user, gaining access to associated logs, data, and documents.
Hover Zoom, on the other hand, is the perfect example of a malicious browser extension, which actually monitors the user’s online behavior. What this extension is supposed to do is to allow the user to visit image collections from popular websites by hovering the mouse over the picture without having to click on the thumbnail and it has more than 1.1 million users.
While it continued to gain popularity, Hover Zoom, which was originally a legitimate extension, was bought by an adware and malware company. Nowadays it has become a key instigator of malware behavior, with its developers being caught gathering information and selling keystrokes in the last few years.
Another malicious extension that was designed to look legitimate is a set of add-ons called Droidclub. They can be found on the official Chrome Web Store and even have more than 400,000 users, but it was discovered that they were able to replay and register each scroll and keystroke performed by users whenever they visited websites utilizing Chrome browsers and then share this data with their developers.
How to Safely Use Browser Extensions
In order to stay safe while using browser extensions, it is recommended to avoid downloading too many of them. Since web browsers come with plenty of features already, many of the extensions that were once used by numerous people are becoming increasingly useless.
Another safe way to tackle this is by choosing only trusted sources. To do that, browser extensions should only be downloaded from official sources like the Chrome Web Store or Mozilla. That is because these sources screen the extensions for security issues.
The risks associated with browser extensions can also be avoided by using antivirus programs. This allows you to notice if there is any kind of adware or other malicious activities taking place, which could ultimately endanger your system by exposing it to infected content.
On top of this, it is advisable to use a VPN, which enables you to send and receive information through the internet by encrypted your internet traffic to protect your confidentiality and privacy. This solution maximizes the security of your system so that when you connect to the network, the information is secured and encrypted and therefore hidden from attackers that might be lurking behind browser extensions.