How to Remove Malicious Browser Extensions

Browser extensions can significantly enhance your online experience, but they can also pose serious security risks. Some extensions may be malicious, designed to steal your data, track your browsing habits, or even take control of your device. This guide will help you identify and remove suspicious extensions, ensuring your online safety.

Understanding Malicious Browser Extensions

Malicious extensions often masquerade as helpful tools while carrying out nefarious activities in the background. They might collect your data without consent, inject unwanted ads into web pages, redirect your searches to malicious websites, or slow down your browser performance. These extensions can compromise your privacy and security, potentially leading to identity theft or financial loss.

The danger lies in their ability to blend in with legitimate extensions. They may appear harmless at first glance, but their true nature becomes evident only after being installed and given permission to access your data. It’s crucial to be vigilant about the extensions you install and to regularly review those already present in your browser.

Identifying Suspicious Extensions

To spot potentially harmful extensions, look out for these warning signs:

  1. Unfamiliar extensions: Review your installed extensions regularly and look for any that you don’t remember installing.
  2. Vague or generic names: Be wary of extensions with names that don’t clearly indicate their function.
  3. Excessive permissions: Question why an extension needs certain permissions. For example, a simple calculator shouldn’t need access to your browsing history.
  4. Sudden changes in browsing experience: An increase in pop-up ads, unexpected redirects, or significant browser slowdown could indicate a malicious extension.
  5. Poor reviews or low ratings: Check user reviews and ratings before installing. While not foolproof, they can provide insights into potential issues.
  6. Suspicious behavior: Extensions that change your homepage, search engine, or other browser settings without your permission are likely malicious.
  7. Unwanted installations: If you notice new extensions appearing without your knowledge, your browser may be compromised.

Removing Malicious Extensions

The process of removing suspicious extensions varies slightly depending on your browser. Here’s how to do it in some popular browsers:

  • Chrome: Access the menu, navigate to “More tools” > “Extensions,” locate the suspicious add-on, and select “Remove.”
  • Firefox: Open the menu, choose “Add-ons and themes,” find the questionable extension in the “Extensions” tab, click the ellipsis, and select “Remove.”
  • Edge: Click the menu, select “Extensions,” find the suspicious item, and click “Remove.”
  • Safari: Open “Safari” > “Preferences,” go to “Extensions,” choose the suspicious add-on, and click “Uninstall.”

After removal, restart your browser to ensure all changes take effect and clear any lingering processes.

You might need to take further steps to protect your identity, accounts, and private information. While installed, the malicious extension might have collected and sent you sensitive data to cybercriminals.

Examples of Malicious Browser Extensions

  1. SearchBlox: This extension, disguised as a tool for searching Roblox players, hijacked accounts and stole in-game assets. It had over 200,000 downloads before being removed from the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Netflix Party and Netflix Party 2: These extensions, designed for synchronized media viewing, were used to track users’ digital footprints and inject affiliate links into web pages.
  3. Full Page Screenshot Capture: This extension, intended for taking full-page screenshots, was found to track user data and alter cookie locations on e-commerce sites. It had over 200,000 downloads before its malicious behavior was uncovered.
  4. Autoskip for Youtube, Crystal Ad block, and Brisk VPN: These were among the most popular malicious extensions identified, with 9 million, 6 million, and 5 million users respectively.
  5. PDF Toolbox: Despite having over 2 million users and high ratings, this extension was caught loading arbitrary code from suspicious websites onto every webpage viewed by the user.

Preventing Future Infections

To minimize the risk of malicious extensions in the future:

Exercise caution when adding new extensions. Stick to official web stores and thoroughly vet each addition. Scrutinize user reviews and ratings, but remember these can be manipulated.

Be wary of extensions requesting extensive permissions. Consider whether the requested access aligns with the extension’s stated purpose. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Keep your browser and extensions up-to-date. Regular updates often include crucial security patches. 

Enable automatic updates to ensure you’re always running the most secure versions. Consider employing reputable antivirus software with web protection features. These tools can provide an additional layer of defense against various online threats, including malicious extensions.

Remove Malicious Browser Extensions FAQs

Can antivirus software detect malicious browser extensions?

Most modern antivirus software can detect malicious browser extensions, but it’s not foolproof. While antivirus programs scan for known malware signatures, new or sophisticated malicious extensions might slip through. That’s why combining antivirus protection with manual vigilance and safe browsing habits is crucial.

Are all free extensions potentially dangerous?

Not all free extensions are dangerous, but free extensions can pose a higher risk. Developers of free extensions might be more tempted to monetize through data collection or ad injection. Always research an extension before installing it, regardless of whether it’s free or paid.

Can malicious extensions affect my computer beyond the browser?

While most malicious extensions are limited to affecting your browser, some sophisticated ones can potentially access your computer’s file system or other applications. This is why it’s crucial to be cautious about which extensions you install and the permissions you grant them.

What if I'm not sure whether an extension is malicious?

If you’re unsure about an extension:

  1. Temporarily disable it and see if the suspicious behavior stops.
  2. Research the extension online, looking for reviews and discussions about its safety.
  3. Use online virus scanning tools to check the extension’s files.
  4. When in doubt, it’s safer to remove the extension and find a well-known alternative.


Are all extensions from the Chrome Web Store safe?

No, not all extensions from the Chrome Web Store are inherently safe. While Google does employ security measures and vetting processes, malicious extensions can still slip through. Here’s why:

  1. Volume challenge: With thousands of extensions submitted regularly, thorough vetting of each one is difficult.
  2. Evolving threats: Cybercriminals constantly develop new techniques to bypass security checks.
  3. Post-approval changes: Some extensions start benign but turn malicious through updates after approval.
  4. Delayed detection: Malicious behavior may only become apparent after widespread use.
  5. Sophisticated disguises: Some malicious extensions are expertly camouflaged as legitimate tools.

To stay safe, users should:

  • Only install necessary extensions
  • Research extensions before installing (check reviews, developer reputation)
  • Be cautious of extensions requesting excessive permissions
  • Keep extensions updated
  • Regularly review and remove unused extensions

Remember, while the Chrome Web Store is generally safer than third-party sources, it’s not immune to threats. User vigilance remains crucial in maintaining browser security.