How to Tell if a Browser Extension May Be Up to No Good
October 26, 2017
by Adam Segal
There’s an adage that has developed in the digital age which states that if an online service is free, chances are, you are the product. While there is some debate as to how true this is, one would be forgiven for assuming it is based on ad revenues from the tech giants that offer free search, social networks, and video platforms.
It’s already quite well known within the tech industry that many free browser extensions inject advertising into the browsing experience in exchange for practical browser enhancements. We also now know, as of last month, that there is at least one extension that was hacked to turn end-user devices into crypto-mining terminals. If this makes you feel somewhat uncomfortable, it probably should.
How can you tell if a browser extension is more trouble than it’s worth? We have a few tips to share.
The biggest lie on the internet — “I have read and agree to the Terms of Service”
Generally speaking, extensions that are not looking to sell your data to third-parties will be quite explicit about it:
Having read both Privacy Policies, it’s pretty clear which one is going to be a higher risk to your browsing privacy. Make sure to understand what you are agreeing to when you install any software on your device.
TIP #2: Understand the permissions required for the extension (or app) to be installed
As extensions have become more sophisticated, so have the resources required to run them. Depending on the functionalities of the extension, you may be required to authorize certain permissions for the extension to run properly.
While many simple extensions can function without requiring any additional permissions, the more complex ones will need to access areas of your browser that, in the wrong hands, could be used unethically.
Complex extensions require complex permissions