As technology is advancing at a faster rate every day, new ways are put in place to hack your system without you ever knowing what happened. This is especially the case with phishing malware files that can give pirates access to your usernames and passwords. Moreover, did you know it was also potentially dangerous to install Chrome extensions? If you want to know why and how to protect yourself, we made this guide for those reasons.
What’s a Chrome Extension?
Extensions, sometimes also called Add-ons or plugins, are browser-based mini-programs that you can attach to your Google Chrome browser. Through Google’s web store (online since 2010), it is possible to search for various programs that improve one’s internet browsing experience, such as:
- Ad Blockers, to stop ads of appearing
- Auto-correcting extensions, like Grammarly for example
- Crypto Wallets, such as Metamask, to hold your cryptocurrencies
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. That said, it is important to know that these tools are not always 100% safe, so be careful before downloading an extension.
Is it possible to get a virus from a Chrome extension?
The short answer is YES, you can get spyware, malware, and viruses, just by downloading or using a Google Chrome extension. In other words, the more extensions you have installed, the more chances you have to get hacked. Some of these programs will ask you to allow access to your Facebook account, while some other extensions will literally ask you to have access to everything Google.com related. This is the main trick pirates use to steal your usernames and passwords.
Was there a security breach with Google Chrome Extensions before?
Yes, it was reported that in 2017, a phishing campaign compromised many Google developer accounts. This gave the opportunity for the hackers to release malicious software files on various Chrome extensions. Those were so unprotected, that they were even able to completely override Chrome’s extension management, helping them in the hiding of their malicious programs.
In the same year, the Interface Online Trojan was introduced through some extensions. What’s a Trojan you may ask? It’s a kind of virus that infect your device without you ever knowing. In Brazil, many financial managers were targeted by this virus, hackers and scammers would call them on the phone, trying to convince them that everything was fine and that it was a legit banking solution.
How to protect myself when I use Chrome Extensions?
Firstly, you can take a few minutes to read the reviews on the web store. This will already give you a good idea of what you’re dealing with.
Secondly, you should always have an anti-virus installed on your computer, along with an anti-spyware. We highly recommend Avast and Spyware Doctor in case you need some suggestions. Such a combo should be able to cover your computer properly.
Thirdly, always use a VPN when you are surfing on the web. This will protect your IP address as well as making it hard for hackers to steal your information.
Finally, only download and install extensions coming from reputable companies. If the extension is developed by a shady company with no credentials, then it’s just better to avoid the installation of one of their products.
What to do if I think my computer might have been hacked?
Before anything, if possible, run your antivirus software to see if that solves the problem. If your computer is awkwardly slow all in the sudden, it is probably due to 3 things:
- You don’t have enough RAM, and since Google Chrome is a memory gobber, it would be a wise decision to upgrade the RAM of your computer. 8 GB+ is recommended.
- You have too many tabs, extensions, processes, or programs opened at the same time. Try to close a few of them. You can use the Task Manager in order to close a few more programs/processes that are eating up your memory.
- You got infected by a malware or a virus, and if running the anti-virus doesn’t solve the problem, then the last solution is to reformat your PC to its factory state.
Is the Google Web Store safer than before?
Absolutely, Googles and vendors have put numerous counter measures in place. In 2014, Google started to scan extensions, and found out there were more than 10% of all applications on the store that were malicious. Fortunately, the latter have been dealt with, but malicious extensions still remain on the platform as of today. Nevertheless, the overall experience is indeed a lot safer than it was before, thanks to the constant hard work from extensions developers and Google.
As always, it is important to verify what you’re installing and using on your computer. It doesn’t matter if it’s web-based or not, hackers will use anything they can to get your information. On that note, be careful and enjoy using Google Chrome’s vast web store!