As if we all didn’t have enough to worry about, recently there has been an increase in malicious browser extensions which when downloaded can lead to your being scammed out of money or becoming a victim of identity theft.  Browsers, like Google Chrome allow you to efficiently search the Web, but while they can be very helpful, people often want to supplement their functionality by adding a browser extension.  A browser extension customizes your browser to your own personal needs through such useful functions as encrypting email, storing passwords and blocking ads (which I use).  Some extensions are actually made available through the browser you use, but many others come from third party developers.  In order to be operate, extensions generally need you to grant permission to access your browsing activities and therein comes the problem.

You can run into problems in two separate scenarios.  In one, you may download a legitimate browser extension that has been infected with malware that can steal your data .  In the other, you may unwittingly download a malicious extension that is totally bogus, but appears to be legitimate that again steals your data.  Depending on the permissions you grant the extension it can gain access to your email or steal your passwords and other sensitive information.


So how do you protect yourself?

A good place to start is to limit your downloading of any extension from legitimate sources such as the Chrome Web Store although this is not a guarantee that you won’t be downloading a malicious browser extension as, despite the best efforts of Google, malicious apps have made their way to the Chrome Web Store.  More than 30 malicious browser extensions were downloaded 75 million times before Google removed it from the Chrome Web Store.

No one likes reading fine print, but carefully review the permissions that the extensions require before you download any browser extension to see that the extension is not requiring access to privileges such as access to your email that it should not need.

Finally, can the extension through security software to determine if it is a malicious browser extension.

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