By Jay Garmon
Google Chrome is already the safest web browser on the market, but when it comes to security you can never be too careful. We’ve compiled 15 Chrome extensions that lock down Google’s browser tighter than Fort Knox.
Some of these extensions will sound familiar to readers of our Internet Safety Guide or our original list of must-have Chrome extensions. They haven’t gotten less useful, but if security and online privacy are your primary concerns, the additional extensions listed below will help you surf even safer.
1. Web of Trust (WOT) – If you have just one Chrome security extension, Web of Trust should be it. The WOT extension throws up traffic signal warnings for every link on the web: green for safe, amber for suspicious, and red for avoid at all costs. The ratings are powered by user feedback, so feel free to throw your own kudos or condemnation up as you surf.
2. SiteAdvisor – Like Web of Trust, McAfee’s SiteAdvisor Chrome extension warns you whether the link you’re about to follow — or the page you’re on — is safe to surf. SiteAdvisor’s alerts, however, are powered by McAfee’s security research, rather than the crowdsourced feedback of Web of Trust. Green checkmarks mean safe; red Xs mean risky.
3. LastPass – The LastPass Chrome extension is a robust password manager that replaces all your separate web logins with a single master password. Remember that one, and LastPass will log you into the rest. Signing up for a new service? LastPass will generate a strong password for you. Got a new web form to fill out? LastPass will complete it for you, even if it’s AJAX-based. And all the password data is locally encrypted, so even if the LastPass service is hacked, your passwords are safe. Stop using the Post-It notes taped to your monitor and let LastPass safely recall your passwords.
4. Secbrowsing – The Secbrowsing Chrome extension provides a single but vital function: It makes sure all your browser plug-ins are up to date. Running an old Flash plug-in with a known vulnerability? Secbrowsing will let you know. Missing the latest Java security update? Secbrowsing has your back.
5. Click & Clean – The Click & Clean Chrome extension is the nuclear option for erasing your browsing history. Besides removing all the URLs from your browser logs, Click & Clean also deletes every cookie, web temporary file, local web artifact, LSO and download history item from your browser — whether they could do harm or not. In short, it makes it look like you’ve never browsed the Internet before.
6. View Thru – When you click on a shortened URL from a service like bit.ly or tinyURL, you have no idea what kind of site (or security threat) you’ll arrive at. The View Thru Chrome extension creates mouseover blurbs that expose the destination URL behind those shortened links. Never click blind again.
7. KB SSL Enforcer – If certain sites or services offer a Secure Sockets Layer login or access option, the KB SSL Enforcer will automatically select that https:// URL. The days of using unnecessarily unencrypted web addresses are over.
8. PasswordFail – For the extra paranoid among us, the PasswordFail Chrome extension warns you off any website that stores or sends your login password as clear text. Basically, if one of these sites is hacked, your undisguised password is sitting openly in a database, ready to be tried on all your other online accounts. PasswordFail lets you know if your password is an easier hacking target by calling out websites that don’t encrypt their stored or e-mailed passwords.
9. Credit Card Nanny – This Chrome extension is just like PasswordFail except Credit Card Nanny highlights websites that store or send your credit card number (and other data) as clear text. The fact is, many web transaction forms simply e-mail your credit card number to the site administrator for manual processing, making the card number, your card expiration date, pin number, or any other transaction data easily intercepted. Credit Card Nanny helps you avoid the online stores that engage in this risky business.
10. TrustGuard – Sort of a Better Business Bureau for the web, the TrustPilot Chrome extension uses customer feedback to rate online stores for their security and business practices: Red for avoid, orange for use caution, and green for safe. If you come across an e-commerce site that looks sketchy, odds are TrustPilot can confirm or deny whether it’s safe to make a purchase. And for established sites that have current security concerns — like when when they’re under a hack attack — TrustPilot will let you know when its safe to shop there again.
11. Secure Profile – It’s all fine and good not to share your passwords or browsing data with unknown online parties, but what about the people who use your PC? The Secure Profile Chrome extension encrypts and password-protects your Chrome profile data — including all those stored passwords and form auto-completes — so that anyone who gains access to your machine can’t also gain access to your online accounts.
12. AdBlock – As much a privacy concern as a security issue, online ads range from intrusive to risk-inducing. The AdBlock Chrome extension blocks most of them, especially those than use Flash, prior to downloading. Thus you’ll browse safer and faster.
13. BugMeNot Lite – Almost every web site seems to want you to create an account — and to track your access history across the Internet — even if you only plan on visiting once. With the BugMeNot Lite Chrome extension, simply click CTRL+i and those onerous login forms will be auto-completed with anonymous information. You get access, but the site gets no data. Sounds fair to me.
14. FlashBlock – If AdBlock doesn’t go far enough, the FlashBlock Chrome extension will prevent any Flash content from loading on a web page. Instead, a placeholder icon is displayed, so you can unlock those select Flash elements you want to see — like videos — without suffering through the slowdown and potential security risks a full Flash onslaught can present.
15. Google Alarm – Perhaps more amusing the useful, the Google Alarm Chrome extension sounds a shrill siren alert anytime you load a page where Google is collecting browsing data, which is to say any page running Google Analytics or Google AdSense. Running this extension for just a few hours will illustrate just how often Google has their eye on you (and how glad you are this extension has a silent mode). You may not run Google Alarm long, but you’ll learn a great deal while it’s operating.
If we neglected to mention a mission-critical Chrome security extension, please sound off in the related discussion area. The price of surfing freedom is eternal vigilance, after all.