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Are Browser Extensions More Dangerous Than Earlier Perceived?

by Nathan Zachary
Are Browser Extensions More Dangerous Than Earlier Perceived

A lot of people have installed browser extensions and have at least a dozen of them. Ad blockers, online translators, spelling and grammar checkers, SEO plugins, and vice versa, all have at least one of them in their browser’s arsenal.

However, only a handful of users are aware of how bad these extensions can be. It is also unfortunate that they seem harmless at first sight but in reality, they are quite dangerous. To see how bad they are, this post will explain using data from reports compiled by industry experts as they have examined the most common families of bad browser extensions.

Browser Extensions – What are they and what kind of work do they do?

First things first, a browser extension is a plug-in adding more functionalities to web browsers. For instance, they can block ads on websites and web pages, make the needed notes, correct spelling and grammar, determine email addresses, and the like.

Popular browsers have official extension stores helping them select, compare and install their desired plug-ins. Yet extensions can also be installed from unofficial sources.

It is important to note that for extensions to do their job, they require permission to read and possibly alter the content of web pages users are seeing in web browsers. Without such access, they won’t be able to do their job.

What to understand about Google Chrome’s case?

In Google Chrome’s case, extensions need the ability to read and change all their data on all websites users visit. It may sound like something concerning but in honesty, the official stores draw negligible attention to it.

In Google Chrome’s official Chrome Web Store, the Privacy practices section of the Google Translate extension says that it collects information about user activity, location, and the website’s content. Yet the matter of fact is that it needs access to all data from all websites so it can work. It is not revealed to users unless and until they install the extension in their browsers.

How bad can browser extensions be?

A lot, if not most, of users, probably do not ( and will not) read this message. In fact, they will automatically click on add extension for utilizing the plugin immediately. All of this creates opportunities for cyber crooks to distribute adware and malware disguised as harmless extensions.

 The rest? Experts providing DDoS protection service in Canada reveal that these extensions hence cause havoc slowly and even mimic the systems of users. Critical information is hence put up for sale on the dark web.

What about adware extensions?

When it comes to adware extensions, the right to change the displayed content gives them the chance to show ads on websites users visit. In such an instance, the extension’s makers earn money from users clicking tracked affiliate links to the websites of advertisers. For improved targeted advertising content, adware extensions analyze key data like search queries.

Are malicious extensions bad?

Things can take a turn for the worse, thanks to malicious extensions. Access to the contents of all websites visited by users gives hackers the chance to steal information, like card details, cookies, and other kinds of sensitive information.

Do rebellious tools exist for office files?

Recently, cyber attackers have been actively spreading malicious adware, especially WebSearch adware extensions. What it does is that it disguises its members as tools for MS Office files, especially the Word to PDF converters.

What is even more surprising is that some of them conduct their stated tasks and functions. However, after installation, they replaced the usual browser homepage with a mini-site having a search bar, and tracked affiliate links going to third-party resources. Among them are AliExpress and Farfetch.

Once these tools are installed, they can change the default search engine, usually to search. my way and it is malicious. It allows cyber crooks to save and analyze search queries of users. They then feed them with more relevant links as per their interests. Yet those links are completely secure and can cause a lot of problems. At the moment, WebSearch extensions are no longer available in Chrome’s official store. Yet third-party resources have them available for download.

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