Browser extensions are useful tools that can add functionality to your internet experience, but they are also being used more frequently as security loopholes, attack vectors for malware, or ways to show users more advertisements. So, what exactly are browser extensions and how can you manage them, so they work for you, not against you?


What Is A Browser Extension?

A browser extension is a small program that alters the behavior of an internet browser such as Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. These changes can range from the simple and useful, like “Adblock Plus” (which blocks ads) to the truly absurd, like “Wurstify,” an application that adds beards to faces in pictures you see online.


What Impact Do Extensions Have?

Browser extensions represent additional processes that are running on your computer and if you install enough of them, they will slow down the operation of your computer. There are many extensions that have decidedly positive effects, like adding better security or streamlining viewing of certain content, but there are also extensions which increase your risk of security breach and degrade your experience online.


Where Do Extensions Come From?

You can download extensions from the Google app store, the Microsoft store or the Firefox Add-ons site. That being said, it is common for users to install extensions unintentionally, usually while installing some other game, utility or program.


How To Manage Your Extensions

It’s a good idea to periodically check your browser for unwanted extensions, especially if you’ve noticed strange activity online or if you have been getting a high volume of popups. In most browsers your extensions or add-ons can be found under “Settings” which should have a button in in the upper right hand corner (Normally a button with either 3 dots or 3 lines). From there, selecting “extensions” or “add-ons” should take you to a list of any extensions you have installed—take a look at the list and make sure there is nothing installed that you don’t recognize, or didn’t intend to be there. To remove one just click remove or uninstall. Especially keep an eye out for anything pertaining to maps, weather, PDFs or anything with the word “ad” in it (aside from Adblock Plus) as these sorts of extensions are ones we’ve observed frequently smuggling adware onto your machine.


Making sure your browser is free of any unnecessary or harmful extensions is a simple regular maintenance task you can work into your routine to ensure your online experience is a little less stressful. If you have any questions about what extensions are safe, or need help checking your computer for unsafe programs, give us a call at Mankato Computer Technology.