While most people consider browser extensions to be completely harmless, guess what? They are not. Browser extensions may look like small pieces of software that you install on your browser for an additional feature, but behind your back, they too are stealing your data.
Data storage and breaches aren’t a small concern or inconvenience. It is a serious and significant issue that requires attention by internet users. Every search engine, browser, and extension over the internet collects some part of your data and uses it to their advantage. This information can include your name, locale, IP address, bank details, etc.
You need to prevent yourself from this data misuse. For this, you need to choose a VPN. A VPN can be an effective way to save your data and identity from leaking. It can encrypt your web traffic, making you virtually anonymous online. That being said, finding a trustworthy VPN is not easy, especially when there are hundreds of confusing choices. To make a planned decision, you can check out the list of recommended VPNs on VPNRanks.
What are browser extensions, and how do they steal your data?
Browser extensions add additional benefits to your web browser. Although these features are pretty useful, they are also dangerous. Browser extensions follow you all over the internet and track all your data and store it. It’s like having another pair of eyes except you that can see all your details.
When you enter your name somewhere, the browser extensions track it. And when you enter your bank details, either during shopping online or while going through your bank’s website, well, browser extensions follow that too.
They can track your account details, the number of transactions you have made, the amount of each transaction, your bank balance, pins and codes, debit/credit card numbers, etc., without you noticing. This should have an alarming effect on you, and such sensitive information should be protected and secured by you at all costs.
Browser extensions mention in their privacy policies what they will and won’t collect from users. The collected information can range from personal information to user activity. This means that the browser extensions collect everything, what you read, what you search, and even the minute details like when and where your mouse’s pointer is located.
Did you know that browser extensions also collect information for personalized ads? It’s true. Browser extensions, just like Google, accumulate and store user information by monitoring their search habits and then displaying ads related to these searches.
Malicious browser extensions are, then again, a significant concern. These browser plugins can easily monitor all the data you enter on various websites and misuse it. They can even collect all the passwords you enter to log into different sites.
A separate tab is present on the page labeled ‘privacy permissions’ when installing a browser extension. From there, you can skim through all the private information that you are permitting the extensions to collect from you. You will be astonished to see what browser extensions tend to collect and what they do not.
Are browser extensions a risk?
Yes. Browser extensions collect some or most of your private data for their advantage. Any personal data breaching application or extension is always a risk to add to your device. Through techniques like browser fingerprinting, your harmless looking web browser can gather a lot of information about you.
It’s not just collecting your data (which is extremely dangerous), but browser extensions also monitor every word you type, like your emails. They can scan all your emails and directories solely because you permit them while getting them on your browser.
Some extensions may also be harmless. Extensions like Adblock or DuckDuckGo have a no-data collection policy. Similarly, some extensions may only collect only small pieces of information from you, which is fine too.
Installing a them requires keen decision-making by you. It’s your data, after all.
What should you take care of while installing a browser extension?
While installing a browser extension on your device, you need to take the protection of your online activity into account:
1. Install browser extensions only from official stores:
The first thing you need to take care of is to install a browser extension only from official web stores. Do not install browser extensions from unknown websites that claim to offer extensions too. Official web stores tend to provide only the trusted browser extensions to users. They try to filter out the malicious and dangerous extensions as much as they can. All popular browsers have their web stores, e.g., Chrome has its web store, and more.
2. Read the privacy permissions’ section:
Every time you decide to install a browser extension, you must read its privacy permissions very carefully. This will allow you to acknowledge what the browser extension will collect and store from you and what it won’t. Then, install the browser extension on your browser only if you’re comfortable using it with all the information it will collect.
3. Try not to overcrowd your browser with extensions:
Do not install a dozen browser extensions on your computer and overcrowd them. Not only will your browser function slowly due to this reason, but you will also have a higher chance of installing dangerous browser extensions than most people. The web store may seem too appealing, and many extensions may claim to offer everything you need, but stop yourself from this. It will only cause you harm in the end.
4. Install extensions that you trust:
Only install the extensions on your PC that you trust aren’t malicious. Installing unknown browser plugins just because they attract you with what they claim to offer will harm you. Instead, check on official review sites which browser extension you should get instead of the one that appeals to you the most. It’s harm vs. your will, honestly.
Browser extensions may be beneficial, but they may not be as safe as you believed them to be. They collect and monitor most of your data, including your bank details, transactions, passwords, etc., for its purposes or to sell it to third-party advertisers. To prevent that from happening, you should use a VPN to stay anonymous and protect all your data, including your identity.