Plugins are designed to make lives, especially people who rely on technology for their work, easier. Plugins, extensions, add-ons are usually the first things laptop and desktop users install on their browsers or devices to enhance work efficiency and productivity. For example, there are plugins that are meant to save passwords, to analyze a web page data, or to launch a program. But like everything else there is always an exception, not all plugins are useful. Malicious plugins exist and are rampant. They usually are installed without the user’s knowledge and they usually hide within downloaded bundles and updates. These harmful plugins will and can compromise your device whether it is a Mac, an Android, or a Windows. These malicious programs can steal your information, track your activities, or simply cause damage to your computer.
How To Defend Against Malicious Plugins
So what are the things you need to consider when installing plugins on your Mac? How do you know if the extensions you are installing are legitimate or malicious? What do you do to protect your Mac against harmful Mac plugins? Below is a safety guide you need to be mindful of when you download or use plugins.
Download Plugins Only From a Trusted Source
If you open a webpage and a pop-up prompts you to install a program or an extension, close it immediately because it’s most probably malicious or harmful. It is prevalent to encounter fake pop-ups with malicious plugins when you go to a movie streaming or download websites. These kinds of websites will prompt you to install their plugin first before giving you access to the movie or the file you want to download. Don’t be tempted by these offers because most of the time once you download the plugins there is a high chance you’ll computers get infected.
If you are using Mac and an avid user of Safari, always download extensions and plugins from the Safari Extensions Web Store. Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers have their own dedicated stores where you can download verified plugins.
Do you plan on using an extension while in Safari, follow these steps:
- Open the Safari Extensions Gallery by clicking Safari Extensions from the Safari menu.
- Find the extension you want to install and click Install Now.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to finish your installation.
Safari plugins are automatically updated when you’re using Safari 9 in OS X Yosemite or later. But if you want to manually update your Mac plugins, follow these steps:
- Go to Preferences from your Safari menu. Then, click Extensions.
- When there’s an update available, you can click Updates in the lower left corner of the window.
- Click the Update button that can be found next to the plugin or extension you want to install.
Another way of downloading extensions is to directly go to the developer’s website. Keep in mind that extensions downloaded from the developers’ websites for your Safari browser have the .safariextz on their file names. All you have to do is download the files and double-click to install. However, these files are not signed or hosted by Safari, so always cautious with your installation because prevention is always better than cure, as the old adage goes.
As an added note, remember that the Flash Player, Java, Silverlight, and Acrobat are the most vulnerable so install new plugins only when necessary.
Every browser is also equipped with a system where plugins are only activated when you allow it. So when you come across a website that requires an extension to work, it will display a pop-up that will ask you if you want to use the extension. Once you click the button, another warning will pop up on the browser asking you to confirm the installation. This means that you have two chances to think about your installation, so tread carefully.
How Harmful Plugins Can Compromise Your Mac
There are two types of harmful plugins every user should be wary of, vulnerable plugins and malicious plugins.
- Vulnerable plugins. These plugins are not malicious in nature but when installed, they can have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious websites or scripts. The Flash Player, for example, has been riddled with vulnerabilities for a long time. Once these vulnerabilities are exploited, your data might be put at risk.
- Malicious plugins. These plugins are intentionally designed to put your information and system at risk. These plugins are usually installed by a malware or when you install applications from dodgy websites. For example, you think you’re only installing VLC but you don’t know that malicious plugins are bundled with it and are being installed on your computer. So, whenever you need to install something, make sure you verify the source and read everything during the installation process.
It pays to be extra cautious whenever you are installing new applications or extensions on your Mac. Another way to protect your computer is by running Outbyte MacRepair, a 3rd party cleaning software, to clean up unwanted files and applications that could be exploited by malware.