How to securely customize your browser with Chrome extensions

Third-party extensions can customize the out-of-the-box functionality of your browser. But extensions have their own unique security and privacy risks. Sometimes their code isn’t kept up to date, meaning they actually increase the risk of hacking. In other cases, the extension could be “spoofed” (meaning it’s an imposter version of the real thing) in an attempt to defraud users.

So what to do? How do you customize your browser while protecting against these security risks? In this article, we’ll discuss how to find, install, and safely manage extensions. To get the benefits of Google Chrome extensions, while protecting against their risk.

Note: If you’re already using the Brave browser, check out this guide for adding extensions to Brave.

Finding and verifying safe Chrome extensions

To find extensions, you’ll start in the Chrome Web Store, and search by category. Note that while the Chrome Web Store usually filters harmful or malicious extensions, the system isn’t foolproof: some bad extensions can slip through the cracks. Before you install, be sure to check the total downloads of the extension, and read its ratings and reviews.

Note: Despite this caveat about bad extensions, the Chrome Web Store is still the most reputable place to find verified extensions for Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers (like Brave).

Installing and reviewing permissions for Chrome extensions

Once you find the extension you want, and you’ve verified its safety, click into the home page for that particular extension on the Chrome Web Store. You’ll see a large Add to Chrome button (or, if you’re using another Chromium-based browser like Brave, this button might say Add to Brave instead). Then follow these instructions:

  1. Click the Add to… button to download and install the Chrome extension.
  2. The Web Store will display a pop-up with permissions for that extension. Read these carefully; each extension sits in your browser, and may have access to data like credit card numbers, bank account logins, and more.
  3. If you agree to the permissions, click Add Extension.
  4. After the download finishes, you should see the extension icon in the upper right corner of your browser, near the address bar. The extension is now installed and ready to use.

Managing and removing Chrome extensions

You should periodically review the extensions installed on your browser, and remove ones you’re not using. Chrome makes it easy to manage these extensions (as do other Chromium-based browsers like Brave). To do so:

  1. Open Google Chrome, and click Chrome in the top toolbar of your computer.
  2. Click About Chrome.
  3. Click Extensions. This will open a new tab that shows all your current extensions. You should check this page regularly to ensure there aren’t any unauthorized extensions.
  4. If you find an extension you want to get rid of, click Remove under its name. If you’re not sure what an extension does, click Details for more info.

If you’re using another Chromium browser like Brave, the same instructions apply. So you’d open Brave, then click Brave, About Brave, and Extensions.

Reducing security risks and performance issues with Chrome extensions

As you can see, adding extensions to Chrome and other Chromium browsers like Brave is easy. But while they can unlock great new features, they can also have unwanted side effects. Below are two to consider.

Extensions can slow you down

Extensions are software applications, which means they draw processing power from your device. The more apps you run at once, the more likely you’ll see slowdowns on your browser…and your computer. While most extensions are small, having too many can quickly add up to poor performance. If your browser seems slow, it might be time to uninstall one (or more) of your extensions.

Some extensions see everything

Every extension needs your permission to run in your browser. And some will request access to what your browser sees. That means potentially private information like purchase history, credit card info, and account numbers. Be sure to only use trustworthy, reputable browser extensions.

Brave Browser: Fast and secure browsing with Chrome extensions

The Brave browser introduces a new way to browse the Web while using your favorite extensions. It’s built on the open-source Chromium codebase, which means it has all the core features you’d find in Chrome (along with dozens of custom features like an independent search engine and free, private video calls). And, like Chrome, Brave supports most extensions from the Chrome Web Store. That means “Brave extensions” or “Brave add-ons” are exactly the same as Chrome extensions, and can be downloaded from the same place.

But Brave builds in hundreds of privacy and security improvements on top of the Chromium base. It blocks ads and trackers by default, and helps prevent your data from being harvested online. And thanks to that default blocking, there’s just less stuff on every page you visit. That means faster page load, and longer battery life on your device.

If you’re looking for a browser that supports most Google Chrome extensions but with enhanced security and fast browsing, download the Brave browser today.

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