Browser extensions are small add-ons/applications that add functionality to your web browser. They can be very useful, but they can also pose serious risks to your privacy and security. Here are some of the dangers of browser extensions and how to avoid them.
– Malicious extensions: Some extensions are designed to spy on your online activity, steal your personal information, inject ads into web pages, or redirect your searches to malicious websites. These extensions may come from third-party websites or even from official stores if they are not properly vetted. For example, the Web Developer extension for Chrome was hijacked in 2017 and started displaying unwanted ads to its users.
– Hijacked or sold extensions: Even if an extension is safe when you install it, it may become malicious later if it is hijacked by hackers or sold to shady companies. This can happen because extensions update automatically and may not require your permission to change their behavior. For example, the Particle extension for YouTube was sold to a company that added adware and spyware to it.
Overly broad permissions: Many extensions require access to all the websites you visit or even your entire browser data in order to function properly. This means that they can potentially read your passwords, emails, credit card details, and more. Even if an extension is not malicious, it may have security flaws that expose your data to hackers or leak it to third parties. For example, the Stylish extension for customizing web pages was found to collect users’ browsing history and send it to a remote server.
To minimize the risk of browser extensions, you should follow these tips:
– Only install extensions from trusted sources and read their reviews and ratings.
– Check the permissions that an extension requests and only grant them if they are necessary for its functionality.
– Disable or uninstall extensions that you don’t use regularly or that behave suspiciously.
– Use a reliable antivirus program and browser security tool to protect your browser from malicious extensions. Browser extensions can enhance your web browsing experience, but they can also compromise your privacy and security. Be careful with what you install and how you use them.
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