Fears of data-stealing, hacking, and identity theft are not new. We all worry about the theft of our personal information on the internet for illicit purposes. Each year, hundreds of millions of people around the world become victims of some sort of cybercrime. In 2019, the FBI alone reported the theft of around $3.5 billion in the cyberspace. The facts reveal the vulnerability of our precious data. As our smart phones contain information about every activity of our life, the data burglars preferably target them to steal private information and sell it to various clients.
Besides the applications and services we use on our mobiles, our web browsers contain the greater part of our private information. We use them each day for searching, reading, shopping, and accessing the professional websites. For our convenience, we further add extensions into our web browsers without verifying whether they are safe to use or not. There are numerous tech experts that urge the users to remain cautious while using extensions because their dangers often go beyond one’s imagination. Hence, it is incumbent upon all of us to know how to identify and remove dangerous browser extensions on our phone.
This article will give you an idea about what goes on in cyberspace. It will also explain how the removal of harmful extensions from your phone’s web browser can secure your sensitive information.
How extensions become dangerous
Undoubtedly, extensions save our time and effort by adding more features to our web browsers. They block ads, translate web content, extract images, copy URLs to the clipboard, and facilitate us in many other ways. However, as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Some of them become dangerous when they start demanding much more than they serve.
Extensions permanently stick to our web browsers, observe our interests, monitor our online purchases, and compile this information in the form of reports. This means that they are capable enough to leak our privacy-sensitive information. There are numerous stories where such extensions intruded into the personal content and shared the data with third-parties. For instance, in 2019, when Amazon granted the Amazon Browser Extension to its Prime subscribers, many allegations of data theft came in the limelight from the users. Finally, the company itself reported that it had collected data containing URLs, search history, user IDs, and some page content from browsers to provide better information to the users about the relevant products and services the company had.
You will be further surprised to know that Google web store is also full of unauthorized extensions. Recently, a survey report concluded that the most popular extensions on Google web store were found to be gathering and leaking sensitive user information. This shows how corporations use deceiving means to understand our habits, likes, and preferences. After all, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Essential precautionary measures that can save you from a lot of trouble:
Developers from all over the world launch their extensions on the internet. Some of them are neither authentic nor match the safety standards. Installing such extensions is akin to compromising on your device’s security. So, before you fall prey data theft, learn some countermeasures to ensure your device’s protection against misbehaving extensions.
Here are some recommendations:
- Before downloading any extension, ask yourself if you really need it.
- Always check the segments which cover the terms of data collection. Stay informed about the data it is collecting and sharing with the Third-Parties (advertisers, scammers, and promoters in most cases).
- If the data sharing policy does not convince you, leave the extension and look for another one. After all, there exists a broad collection of extensions that serve the same purpose.
- While installing, stay vigilant about the permissions it requires. Ensure that the permissions you grant justify the purpose of the extension. And if they don’t, there is a possibility that the extension may be collecting and selling your data.
- Going through the reviews of extension can also help. See what other people think about the extension.
- Also, check how old it is; it will be trust worthier if it has been there for a long time, and thousands of users have already downloaded it.
- Always prefer downloading extensions from authorized web sites. For instance, Use Apple store for Safari, Google store for Chrome, etc. Never download extensions from suspicious websites or follow links provided by unknown sources.
- Get some information about the developer as well. Visit the developer’s page and see what sort of extensions it has previously made.
- Lastly, experts always suggest keeping the number of extensions as low as possible. Since, these affect your device’s performance, consume excess storage, and pose a potential threat to your personal information.
Advantages of having minimum extensions in your browser:
- Fast browsing experience
- More storage capacity
- Lesser chances of data theft
- Reduced third-party interference in our device
- Minor trouble of performing occasional updates
How to remove dangerous browser extensions on your device?
The option of running an extension to enhance your browser’s functionality is available on all web browsers. This part will discuss how to remove dangerous browser extensions on your phone. The procedure is quite simple; it is the same for most of the browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and also Internet explorer.
- To start with, launch the Web browser on your device.
- Click the Menu button represented by three vertical dots (or three horizontal lines if you are using Firefox), located on either the top left or right corner.
- From the drop-down menu, select More tools, then Extensions for Google Chrome, select Extensions for Opera and Microsoft Edge, and select Add-ons and then Extensions for Internet Explorer and Firefox
- From the list of extensions that appears, manually select any of them to check its properties, performance, and permissions.
- Lastly, if you feel that a particular extension is useless or inappropriate, disable or remove it from your phone.
The purpose of this article was to give you an idea of the vulnerabilities of data-stealing in cyberspace. Protect yourself from the threats posed by dangerous extensions. Inform and educate others about the importance of this issue. Stay vigilant lest you should become a victim of it.