Browser Extensions that are Collecting Data on You

All too often, we think that downloading an extension for our internet browser is safe because we got it from a trusted source, like the Google Play Store. These extensions are created to make the lives of users easier and expand the functionality of their devices. Unfortunately, the fact is that the screening of apps and browser extensions is not being done as diligently as one might think it is.

Recently, it has been revealed that the Google Play Store has hosted a number of apps that have been infected with malware. Those users who have downloaded those apps have unintentionally exposed themselves to having their devices being infected with malicious code. According to Kim Komando, an expert in the digital field, apps that have been infected with a malicious code called “DrainerBot” had been installed over ten million times before the problem was discovered.

As a consumer, not only do you have to worry about downloading extensions and apps that might be infected, you also have to worry about downloading an app that harvests your personal data without your consent. Extensions that harvest data that have been available on Chrome and Firefox have been shown to covertly track your browsing and spending habits. Although it is illegal for these companies to collect your personal information without your consent, some are still doing such and they are selling that information to third parties. The type of information the apps are collecting to sell include credit card information, GPS location, name, phone number, address, and sometimes even tax returns.

So, what are the web browsers doing to stop applications and extensions from being available for download? Google and Firefox recognized that these extensions and browsers were downloaded off of their stores; therefore, it was their duty to take them off and become more diligent about screening applications they allow for download.

During this period of transition into the company’s new screening process, it might be a good idea to review if the extensions that you’ve already downloaded are safe. To do so, open a new browser window and in the URL bar, type in: chrome://extensions or about:addons. Once you can see all of the extensions there that you’ve downloaded, look for any that suspicious, unknown to you, or that have been affected, and then click “Remove” on each of those.

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