Web Browser

Safety First: Unraveling Browser Extension

Browser extension can improve productivity, but are they safe? Yes, because their manifesto serves as a permission framework

The web browser is emerging as the dominant platform for building tools. Many knowledge worker barely leave their browser any more: Even traditional desktop applications like word processors or spreadsheets are moving into the browser. A browser extension can make users even more productive, across web applications: But are they safe?

Browser security is not an issue any more

Web browser security has evolved significantly over the years, addressing and mitigating many of the vulnerabilities that plagued early versions. Previously, browsers were susceptible to a range of threats like phishing attacks, malware injection, and cross-site scripting.

Today, modern browsers employ robust security measures such as sandboxing, secure coding practices, and regular updates to combat these issues. Furthermore, frequent updates ensure that known vulnerabilities are patched swiftly, reducing the window of opportunity for malicious actors to exploit weaknesses.

Are browser extensions safe?

In the bustling world of web browsing, extensions have emerged as indispensable tools, offering enhanced functionality and personalized experiences. These miniature software add-ons empower users by tailoring their online interactions. However, the rising concerns about online safety and privacy make users ponder: Are browser extensions safe?

Understanding the safety of browser extensions revolves around the pivotal role of a manifesto, which serves as a blueprint guiding the extension’s behavior and permissions. The manifesto, in essence, is a set of rules and configurations defining how an extension operates within a browser environment. This document ensures that extensions adhere to stringent standards, offering a layer of security for users.

The manifesto of the browser extension serves as a blueprint guiding the extension’s behavior and permissions

At the crux of safety lies the permission architecture embedded within the manifesto. This framework delineates the extent of access an extension has to a user’s browser and data. Permissions act as a gatekeeper, dictating what an extension can or cannot do, thereby mitigating potential risks. For instance, an extension may require access to browsing history or tabs to function optimally, but it doesn’t necessarily need access to personal information or passwords.

A screenshot of the Semiant browser extension button.
By default, Semiant does not have access to web pages. You can check this by hovering over the Semiant icon. Once you click on the icon, you grant Semiant access to the page.

What distinguishes the safety of browser extensions is the transparency provided by these permissions. When users install an extension, they are presented with a clear list of permissions the extension requests. This transparency grants users the ability to make informed decisions. They can evaluate whether the extension’s requested permissions align with its intended functionality and gauge any potential risks associated with granting those permissions.

Delivered via Chrome Web Store

The Semiant browser extension is delivered via the Chrome Web Store. It stands as a secure platform for the delivery of browser extensions, ensuring a trusted environment for users to access and install add-ons with confidence. Through rigorous review processes and compliance checks, extensions undergo meticulous scrutiny before being made available for download.

Microsoft Edge provides the same level of safety as Google Chrome and allows installing extensions from the Chrome Web Store

Moreover, Chrome’s (and Edge’s) secure delivery system employs encryption and secure connections, ensuring that extensions are safely transmitted to users’ browsers without tampering or interception. The platform also facilitates automatic updates for installed extensions, further fortifying security by swiftly patching vulnerabilities and keeping users protected against emerging threats. This robust framework fosters a secure ecosystem, assuring users of a safe and reliable source for their browser extension needs.

All browsers follow the manifest

The compatibility of browser extensions across different platforms—Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari—adds another layer of security. While each browser may have its unique nuances in handling extensions, they all adhere to similar manifesto standards. This compatibility ensures that extensions designed for one browser can seamlessly function on others, maintaining a consistent level of safety and user experience across platforms.

Chrome, with its extensive library of extensions, provides a robust security model backed by stringent review processes. Edge, built on Chromium, inherits many of Chrome’s security features, fostering a safe extension ecosystem. Firefox prioritizes user privacy and security, employing a rigorous review system for extensions available on its platform. Safari, with its focus on privacy, enforces strict policies to safeguard user data and control extension behavior.

Browsers in the Enterprise

However, while permissions and manifestos bolster user safety, exercising caution remains paramount. Users should verify the authenticity and credibility of extensions by checking reviews, developer information, and update frequencies. Regularly reviewing installed extensions and their permissions ensures ongoing control and security.

Some companies go even further: In a corporate setting, managing web browsers within an organization is crucial for maintaining security protocols and streamlining productivity. Through centralized management systems or tools, administrators can exert control over which extensions can be installed on employees’ browsers. This capability ensures adherence to company policies and security standards.

Additionally, this management capability allows for swift updates or removals of extensions to adapt to evolving security threats or compliance requirements, ensuring a fortified and compliant browsing ecosystem.

Browser Extension are safe and increase productivity

Be more efficient with the Semiant browser extension

Semiant is a virtual quality assistant, delivered via browser extension. It currently supports AI glossary management and requirements quality check.

Browser extensions are a great addition to a user’s toolkit, no matter whether used personally or in the work context.

Also, they are as safe as web pages: The transparent delineation of permissions, coupled with cross-browser compatibility, fosters a secure environment for users to harness the power of extensions without compromising their online safety.

In a corporation, centralized management can increase safety even further, while providing users with the tools they need for getting their work done.

In short: Any organization that allows their users to use a web browser should also allow users to use browser extensions, if it increases their productivity. This is no more of a safety risk as are cloud-based web applications.

Pictures by Mediamodifier and Michael Schiffer on Unsplash