Online Security: Addressing the Dangers of Browser Extensions


Browser extensions have become as common as mobile apps with people tending to download many and use few. There are over 176,000 browser extensions available on Google Chrome alone. These extensions offer users extra functionalities and customisation options.

While browser extensions enhance the browsing experience, they also pose a danger. This can lead to significant risks with online security and privacy.

In this article, we unravel the dangers associated with browser extensions, shed light on the potential threats they pose, and provide insights into safeguarding your online presence.

The Allure and Perils of Browser Extensions

Browser extensions are often hailed for their convenience and versatility. They are modules that users can add to their web browsers to extend functionality and add customisable elements.

From ad blockers and password managers to productivity tools, the variety is vast. However, the ease with which users can install these extensions is a weakness because it also introduces inherent security risks.

Key Risks Posed by Browser Extensions

As we delve into the hazards associated with browser extensions, it is imperative to strike a balance between the benefits and dangers.

Privacy Intrusions

Many browser extensions request broad permissions and if abused, they can compromise user privacy. Some of these include accessing browsing history and monitoring keystrokes. Certain extensions may overstep their intended functionality which can lead to the unauthorised collection of sensitive information.

Users often grant permissions without thoroughly reviewing them, and this causes them to unintentionally expose personal data to potential misuse.

Malicious Intent

There are many extensions developed with genuine intentions, but some extensions harbour malicious code. This code can exploit users for financial gain or other malicious purposes. These rogue extensions may inject unwanted ads, track user activities or even deliver malware.

These extensions often use deceptive practices making it challenging for users to distinguish between legitimate and malicious software.

Outdated or Abandoned Extensions

Extensions that are no longer maintained or updated pose a significant security risk. Outdated extensions may have unresolved vulnerabilities as hackers can exploit them to gain access to a user’s browser and potentially compromise the entire system. Without regular updates and security patches, these extensions become a liability.

Phishing and Social Engineering

Some malicious extensions engage in phishing attacks as social engineering tactics that can trick users into divulging sensitive information.

This can include creating fake login pages or mimicking popular websites. These tactics lead unsuspecting users to unknowingly provide sensitive data, like usernames, passwords, or other confidential details.

Browser Performance Impact

Certain extensions can significantly impact browser performance due to being poorly coded or laden with unnecessary features. This results in a subpar user experience, system slowdowns, crashes, or freezing. An extension’s perceived benefits may attract users, but they end up unwittingly sacrificing performance.

Mitigating the Risks: Best Practices for Browser Extension Security

1. Stick to Official Marketplaces

Download extensions only from official browser marketplaces, such as those connected with the browser developer (Google, Microsoft, etc.). These platforms have stringent security measures in place to reduce the likelihood of encountering malicious software.

2. Review Permissions Carefully

Before installing any extension, carefully review the permissions it requests. Be cautious if an extension seeks access to unusual data., such as data that seems unrelated to its core functionality. Limit permissions to only what is essential for the extension’s intended purpose.

3. Keep Extensions Updated

Regularly update your browser extensions to ensure you have the latest security patches. Developers release updates to address vulnerabilities and enhance security. If an extension is no longer receiving updates, consider finding an alternative.

4. Limit the Number of Extensions

It’s tempting to install several extensions for various functionalities, but each added extension increases the potential attack surface. Only install extensions that are genuinely needed. Regularly review and uninstall those that are no longer in use.

5. Use Security Software

Use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software. This adds an extra layer of protection against malicious extensions by detecting and removing threats that may bypass browser security.

6. Educate Yourself

Stay informed about the potential risks associated with browser extensions. Understand the permissions you grant, and be aware of the types of threats that can arise from malicious software. Education is a powerful tool in mitigating security risks.

7. Report Suspicious Extensions

If you encounter a suspicious extension, report it to both the official browser extension marketplace and your IT team. This proactive step helps browser developers take prompt action which protects users from potential threats.

8. Regularly Audit Your Extensions

Conduct regular audits of the extensions installed on your browser. Remove any that are unnecessary or pose potential security risks. Maintain a lean and secure browsing environment. This is a key aspect of online security.

Contact Us for Help with Online Cybersecurity

Browser extensions are just one way you or your employees can put a network at risk. Online security is multi-layered and includes protections from phishing, endpoint threats, and more.

Don’t stay in the dark about your defences – we can assess your cybersecurity measures and provide proactive steps for better protection. Give us a call today to schedule a chat.


Article published with permission from The Technology Press.