Modern browsers have made it easy to search the web, access websites, and use other web applications. However, sometimes, a browser’s functionality may be limited and doesn’t provide what you need. In such cases, a browser extension offers extra help that allows you to customize your web browsing activities.
In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need about browser extensions, how it benefits you, their significant security issues, and how you can mitigate those risks. Let’s start!
Browser Extension: What Is It And How Does It Work?
Browser extensions, also known as plug-ins, are mini-module software that customizes your web browsers. Think of it as add-ons on your browser providing extra features and functions. However, it can also help remove unwanted web functionalities such as pop-up ads, auto-play videos, and other annoying features.
Extensions are created using web-based languages and technologies. Most web browsers offer extensions. However, most extensions are created by third-party programmers and are available for download.
In general, once you installed a browser extension, they may automatically get partial or full access to your browser or ask for permission to do their job. Most of the time, users grant permission to extensions knowingly. It’s the same thing as with the Terms of Agreement in most websites or apps—users simply click the ‘Yes’ or ‘I agree’ button.
After given access, they can track your browsing activity, block ads, capture and store passwords, etc. Almost all browsers support extensions and plug-ins. Additionally, you’ll find thousands of extensions available for customization, productivity, games, and so much more.
The most common type of extension on web browsers is ad blockers that automatically block annoying pop-up ads. Some extensions can translate text on web pages, and others allow for easy bookmarking or password management. VPN services may also offer VPN extensions for Chrome browser’s security and convenient web protection for users.
Do You Need A Browser Extension?
If you want to expand the functionality of your browser, then installing a browser extension might be best for you. Browser extensions can be a little helper on the side when browsing the internet. They can change and enhance the way your web browser operates and can be used to customize the way you use and browse the web.
Extensions are particularly helpful for businesses, assisting employees to work in new ways. In a non-extension world, you’ll have to open a browser tab for every app or website you need. You end up going to two or three of them to finish a task, whereas extensions can help simplify your workload. For instance, if you’re a sales representative and someone wants to schedule a demo and learn one of your case studies, you’d need at least three apps–email, calendar, and cloud storage–to schedule and look up a case study. With browser extensions, you can read the email, pick a free time on a scheduling calendar, look up a case study, grab a link, and send it all back to a client, all from a single tab.
From blocking unwanted ads to organizing your calendar or downloads—extensions can be incredibly useful and handy. They are good for adding or subtracting features of your browser, and doing so helps enhance the convenience and your overall browsing experience.
The Risks Of Browser Extensions
Like anything else we use online, browser extensions have risks. The major risk they present is privacy and security. This mainly has to do with the permission given to these extensions when you install them, giving them too much access to the sites you visit.
When you approve these permissions, extensions have the power to do just about anything. When you accidentally installed and approved permission for a malicious extension, it could easily log your keystrokes to steal personal and financial information such as your credit card and banking data. It can also re-route your search traffic or sell your browsing data to marketers and advertisers.
Furthermore, once you install these extensions, they’re running all the time you’re browsing and can easily track just about everything you do online. What’s more, some browsers can operate without asking for permission. This means every web extension you install will automatically have access to everything.
Best Practices To Use Browser Extensions Safely
Even though extensions are risky, some of them are really useful. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to completely abandon them. However, you need to be alert and implement best practices in using them.
For one, it’s recommended to use as few browser extensions as possible. Every extension you see may be handy and enhance your browsing experience. However, you shouldn’t install them just because of that. Plus, they can negatively impact your computer’s performance. So, make sure to only install what you need.
Always search and install extensions from official web stores. These extensions have been tested and filtered out for malicious features. When installed, you need to check and monitor the permissions it requires if they support and match the functionality it provides.
Lastly, consider installing a good internet and browser security solution to detect and neutralize malicious activities and codes in browser extensions. Most antiviruses have an internet security feature that monitors your browsing activity and keeps extensions on a tight leash.
There’s no denying that a browser extension plays a valuable role when browsing the web. They offer a lot of useful features and functionalities to your browsing experience, but at the same time, they also pose a significant threat to your internet security and privacy.
That said, not every browser extension is dangerous. It’s up to you to be diligent in what extension you install and the permissions you allow. No one’s stopping you from using browser extensions but do so sparingly and always stay alert and monitor the ones you’ve already installed.