Browser extensions are a great way to expand the functionality of your favorite browser. But bad Chrome extensions can cause much more harm than help. Whether they use lots of system resources, collect your data, install adware, or similar, you don’t want them on your system.
It’s hard to keep track of the worst Chrome extensions since good extensions go rogue all the time. Here are several bad Chrome extensions that you should uninstall as soon as possible, plus tips for avoiding them in the future.
Hola is an extremely popular extension for unblocking content that’s not available in your region. However, unlike a proper VPN, Hola acts as a peer-to-peer proxy network. This means that everyone using Hola actually “borrows” another user’s connection.
Even worse, Hola has been used as a giant botnet system. In exchange for the free service, Hola uses some of your bandwidth. In the past, Hola sold this bandwidth through the associated Luminati service. Before the company introduced tighter guidelines, malicious individuals took advantage of the system to launch DDoS attacks on major websites.
While Hola can provide a useful service, we recommend staying away from this setup that trades your bandwidth to unknown parties. Plus, if another user accessed your connection through the network and accessed illegal material, it could get you in trouble.
Use one of the best VPN services that respects your privacy instead.
An extension called “FindMeFreebies” sounds like it will help you find free goods online. However, all it does it change your new tab page to FindMeFreebies.com, which advertises ways to find free items.
3. Hover Zoom
Many shady Chrome extensions have thankfully been removed from the Chrome Web Store. Hover Zoom is one such example—it started as a useful tool for enlarging images when you mouse over them. However, it was bought by a malicious company that basically turned the extension into spyware by tracking and selling your browsing data.
While Hover Zoom is no longer on the Web Store, we include it here due to its popularity. It’s worth checking to make sure you don’t have this installed. If you do, remove it and try Imagus instead, which is safe alternative.
4. All Antivirus Extensions
Browser extensions from antivirus manufacturers pretty much only exist to make money for the companies. Almost every antivirus monitors your web traffic for safety anyway, so you don’t need a dedicated browser extension.
Some of these extensions have engaged in questionable behavior, including gathering your browsing information and changing your homepage or default search engine. Using one of these extensions doesn’t make you any more secure, so you should just get rid of them.
5. Any Unfamiliar Extensions
Thankfully, a lot of the dangerous Chrome extensions that we previously recommended against installing are no longer available. However, new ones crop up all the time. Cisco’s Duo Security published a report in February 2020 about dozens of malicious extensions that Google removed from the Web Store.
Most of these have questionable names, like EasyToolOnline Promos or LoveTestPro Ad Offers. Chances are that you wouldn’t install something like this in the first place, but it’s worth checking out your installed list of extensions from time to time just to make sure.
Junk like this poses as a useful add-on but works in the background to spawn ads so the companies can make money. We’ve looked at some other Chrome extensions that leaked user data before if you’d like more info.
How to Avoid Malicious Extensions in the Future
Unfortunately, keeping up with dangerous Chrome extensions is a bit of a challenge. Once-legitimate extensions are often sold to malicious companies, who then use them to make money by selling your data.
Before you install any extension, check out the reviews on the Web Store, particularly recent ones. If you see largely negative reviews complaining about ads or other shady behavior, you shouldn’t use that extension. It’s also worth Googling the name of the extension, as you’ll probably find reports of issues on forums.
To review your installed extensions, click the three-dot Menu button at the top-right of Chrome and choose More tools > Extensions. Disable anything that you don’t use often by turning off its slider. If you don’t recognize an extension or know that you don’t want it, click Remove.
Select Details to see more about an extension, including its permissions. Under the Site access section, you can choose what sites the browser can access your data on. It’s also a good idea to click Open extension website—if it looks illegitimate, that’s a sign of a bad extension.
Finally, you can click View in Chrome Web Store to see the download page for the extension. This makes it easy to check recent reviews for an extension you might have had installed for a while.
Delete Chrome Extensions You Don’t Need
Thankfully, a lot of nasty Chrome extensions are no longer on the Web Store. But new ones pop up all the time, and some Chrome extensions have been used to spy on people, so you still need to take care. Make sure you trust an extension before installing it by looking into reviews and regularly look at your installed extensions to make sure nothing has gone rogue.
If you suspect you may have malicious software on your PC after using one of these extensions, look into the best antivirus software tools to run a scan.
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