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Security & Privacy

This virus can steal the data saved in your browser

The convenience of our modern internet has made it all too easy to take our security for granted. Rather than writing down and typing out passwords or financial info manually, we trust that data to large corporations and hope that their defenses are enough to protect it. Unfortunately, we all know how well that’s worked out, but surely things can’t be that dangerous if we keep our data contained to our browser, right?

Well, hackers and cybercriminals are hoping you’ll think that. One of the latest targets in the ongoing war against your personal data is actually hiding in your browser. This small area contains numerous pieces of vital information — including passwords, credit card information and perhaps even your home address. Now, a popular virus is capable of siphoning all of it up!

Cyberthreats don’t just stay the same over time, they evolve and grow. As bad as these viruses are now, it’s only a matter of time before they become even more dangerous. Here’s what you need to know about this data-stealing menace and how you can keep it and its “friends” far away from your browser.

“Stealers” on the rise, browsers on the run

According to new reports from software researchers at Kaspersky Labs, a type of malware called “Stealer trojans” or “Stealers” are on the rise in 2019 — with nearly 1,000,000 of these attacks discovered in the first half of 2019.

When a computer is infected with this type of virus, the malware is able to scan and steal the data stored in the autofill settings of a user’s web browser. This data storage, which millions rely on every day, tends to contain vital information like addresses, credit card numbers and passwords to website accounts.

Stealer malware isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, mind you. These programs were first developed and unleashed during the 1990s. Kaspersky’s findings, however, are proof that this retro-style malware is back with a vengeance.

If hit by a Stealer, your data is often absorbed without your knowledge. Just like with phishing scams, it’s usually uploaded to a database and sold or distributed on the dark web for hackers to play around with. But considering how sensitive the data contained in autofill settings tend to be, this popular method is the perfect vector for rampant identity theft.

What can I do to stay safe?

It’s important to remember that browsers, by default, are typically designed to encrypt the data stored in your autofill settings. And for a time, most of the major browsers were pretty solid at defending against these nasty pieces of malware. But threats continue to become more advanced, and the latest varieties of Stealer malware are far more sophisticated than the programs of old.

If you’re using Chrome, Opera, or Microsoft Edge, your risk is slightly higher. This is because these programs store autofill data in a central location that only requires a single request to decode the data.

Since Chrome is the most popular browser on the web, it’s the biggest target for Stealer-type malware. That said, if you avoid shady parts of the internet, refuse to open strange email attachments, and exercise caution when clicking links, you’ll stay much more secure. Make sure to also keep a strong antivirus handy and scan your system regularly to be totally sure you’re safe.

If you use Firefox (our personal recommendation for “Safest Web Browser”), you’re actually covered with additional protection. Unlike its competitors, Firefox uses multiple layers of encryption to protect its autofill data. And that’s in addition to its numerous privacy features like automatic cookie blocking.

So, if you’re going to use a browser in today’s climate, Firefox is one of the safest choices. But it’s still worth installing a powerful antivirus alongside it, as well. Regardless of which browser you are using, though, it may be time to stop relying on autofill for your password needs.

When Stealers are afoot, you can’t be too careful.

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