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Security & privacy

Browser extension security: Check to see if these add-ons can access your bank info

Browser extensions have transformed the way many people used the internet. Installing a small piece of software allows you to do instant translations, search for coupon codes, display exchange rates and more.

But while extensions are no doubt useful, some could be hiding a sneaky surprise. Tap or click here for five reasons to ditch Gmail for a privacy-focused email service.

Recently, several extensions have been found to keep track of what you are doing online. This could include checking emails or online shopping. Some can even spy on your banking credentials. Let’s look at the risks certain extensions present and what you can do about them.

Here’s the backstory

Extensions are coded to do a limited set of functions, but some of them request access to information they don’t need if you look closer. This is troubling, given the sensitive data that could be exposed.

You may have seen a message appear while installing an extension that said, “Read and change all your data on the websites you visit.” What does this mean, and is there anything you can do about it?

The message aims to tell you that the extension has full access to what you do online. It can see what you type and how you use a website and services you interact with. The good news is you can control what permissions extensions have.

What can you do about it?

Most popular browsers that use extensions have a system where you can regulate what extensions can see and do. Not all extensions can see what you type, but if you download and install a malicious one, it could wreak havoc on your data.

Some extensions need permission to read and change site data. You can change your extensions’ permissions anytime.

Here is how on Chrome and Microsoft Edge:

  • Open your Chrome or Edge browser.
  • At the top right, click Extensions .
  • Click More Organize and then point to “This can read and change site data.”
  • Decide which permission to give the extension:
    • When you click the extension: This setting only allows the extension to access the current site in the open tab or window when you click the extension. If you close the tab or window, you’ll have to click the extension to turn it on again.
    • On [current site]: Allow the extension to automatically read and change data on the current site.
    • On all sites: Allow the extension to automatically read and change data on all sites.

Here is how to check permissions for Opera:

  • Open your Opera browser.
  • Right-click on an extension shortcut in the navigation bar.
  • Hover your cursor over Page Access.
  • Click “Run on click.”

Here is how to check permissions for Mozilla Firefox:

  • Open your Firefox browser.
  • Right-click on an extension shortcut in the navigation bar.
  • Click Manage Extension.
  • Under the extension’s name, click Permissions.

While you can’t turn off individual permissions, you can toggle the switch to disable the extension. When you want to use it again, enable it.

Mozilla is refreshingly transparent about what permissions mean and provides you with a complete breakdown about the terms and phrases used.

On Apple’s Safari, the process is a bit more complex. Open the browser, click Preferences, and click the Extensions tab for a summary. Click the Websites tab, select the extension, and change the permission status for a selected website to Ask, Allow or Deny.

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