These extensions will reduce your vulnerability to threats like malware and viruses.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has many nations on alert to potential cyber warfare. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said cyberattacks can affect large and small enterprises alike, as well as home offices, even though it does not see specific cyber threats to the US at this time.
According to CISA, updating your web browser, as well as your devices and applications, is a good step to protecting your data and privacy. We regularly recommend improving your overall privacy by trying out a security-focused browser like Brave, or updating your current browser's security settings to tighten up your control over how much of your data is collected. You can further protect yourself online by using a security-focused browser add-on. Here are six browser extensions to help you stay safe online.
The first three browser extensions in this list -- HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin -- have enjoyed some long-standing recommendations from CNET reviewers.
The HTTPS Everywhere extension is available through a partnership between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the TOR Project. Many websites use secure connections already, but some don't, leaving their visitors vulnerable to threats, like having malware delivered to their device. If you're visiting an unprotected website, HTTPS Everywhere checks to see if it offers a secure connection. If one is available, the add-on forces the site to use that connection.
HTTPS Everywhere is available for most browsers, except Safari.
This is another extension from the EFF. Privacy Badger stops advertisers and third-party trackers from monitoring your tracking where you go on the internet, and if it suspects an advertiser is tracking you without your permission, it blocks that advertiser from loading content in your browser. The extension also has a color-coded guide so you know what sites are and aren't safe.
Privacy Badger is available for most web browsers, except Safari.
On the surface, uBlock Origin seems like another ad blocker, but it also blocks third-party trackers and domains known to belong to malware sources based on a community-generated list. If you use a VPN -- and you really should -- this extension also has a WebRTC blocking feature, ensuring your IP address is well hidden.
uBlock Origin is available for Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Opera and Safari.
Malwarebytes Browser Guard blocks trackers and other threats to keep your data safe against web pages that contain malware. It also protects against technical support scams, where a "specialist" from Microsoft calls or messages you to say they have identified a virus on your computer and can remove it for a fee, and virtual credit card skimmers, where your credit card information is stolen when you buy something online. The add-on also blocks popups, which has the added benefit of loading web pages faster.
We haven't tested Malwarebytes Browser Guard, but it has at least a 4 out of 5 star rating and over 9 million users. Many people found it useful, but some people found the extension broke some websites or that it missed some trackers. We recommend closely evaluating Malwarebyte Browser Guard before choosing to use it.
Malwarebytes Browser Guard is available for Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari.
Security software maker Avira offers Avira Browser Safety extension that can help safeguard against infected ads, unwanted applications hidden in downloads, as well as flag malicious websites that might appear in your search results. The company also said the extension can help prevent browser hijacking, which is when unwanted software alters a web browser's settings without permission, making it easier to inject unwanted advertisements into a browser.
We haven't tested Avira Browser Guard, but it has at least 4 out of a 5 star rating with over six million users. While many users found it helpful, some ran into issues when using the extension and accessing Google Docs. We recommend closely evaluating Avira Browser Guard before choosing to use it.
Avira Browser Safety is available for free for Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
Have you looked at a long URL and wondered what those random letters, numbers and symbols mean? Some of that gibberish is probably a web tracker. Web trackers are an array of techniques -- like installing cookies on your browser and monitoring sites that use share buttons attached to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter -- companies use to collect data on you based on the sites you've visited. ClearURLs gets rid of the web tracker and cleans up the URL. Then, if a site like Google tries to reinsert that tracking element back into the URL, ClearURLs stops it. You can access a report from the extension that shows you how many elements were blocked. This extension also makes sharing URLs with friends and family less messy, which is a plus.
We haven't tested ClearURLs, and while the extension has at least a 4 out of 5 star rating with at least 200,000 users, some users complained about not being able to whitelist sites and not being able to set custom rules. We recommend closely evaluating ClearURLs before choosing to use it.
ClearURLs is available for free for Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Firefox.
For more privacy and security news, read how VPNs can help protect your home office, these cybersecurity tips for small businesses and this checklist to help boost your overall privacy.