Malicious Apps and Extensions

Applications and extensions are a great way to add new capabilities and innovations to your devices. From the online shopping app on your phone to the task-manager on your Chrome browser, you can download tools to do just about anything. These tools are often found on sites we trust, like the Apple App Store, Google Play, Chrome, etc. However, due to the sheer volume of apps being uploaded every day, there isn’t complete regulation on the cybersecurity, privacy, and safety of applications and extensions. 

How do I tell the difference between a safe application/extension and a malicious one?

Check the reviews – Credible applications will have extensive positive reviews from real users. Even if an app has five-star ratings, check to see how many and who they’re from. Malicious app-developers can pay for bots to review their app in order to fake credibility. If you see lots of positive reviews that look like they’re from real users, it’s a good sign.

Ask for recommendations – We’re all living in the digital age! If you’re looking for a specific tool, ask your friends and family what applications they recommend, or do a quick Google search to find highly recommended tools.

Look at the developer’s website – This article by How-To Geek covers how to scope out a chrome extension developer’s website for legitimacy. 

What happens if I’ve downloaded an unsafe application or extension?

Unsafe applications and extensions can infect your device with malware. Malware is any type of malicious software designed to do damage to your device or network. Examples of malware include viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, and keyloggers. Malware can make your device run less efficiently and can cause a serious breach to your private data. In 2018, Trend Micro uncovered a malicious extension that was being distributed through Facebook Messenger.

While it may not be considered “malicious”, it is important to consider the privacy risks of legitimate applications as well. Often, apps will have automatic permission-settings that will allow them to take more data than what you may be comfortable with. Go into the settings of your smartphone to adjust the permissions of each individual app, and adjust your Chrome app and extension permissions.

What do I do to recover?

When malicious software is downloaded on your device, don’t panic. Cybercrime and online fraud can happen to anyone. FraudSupport.org covers a list of immediate action steps for recovery from a virus/malware…

  • Disconnect the computer/tablet from the Internet immediately.
  • Turn off your Internet by unplugging the router and/or the modem from the wall.
  • Restart your computer/tablet in Safe Mode: Learn how for Windows or Mac.
  • Remove any new or suspicious programs from your device.
  • Enable a two-step/factor verification – which requires a code to log in.

After you follow the steps mentioned above, it’s important to report the incident. You can report a malicious app within the Apple App Store or Google Play by going to the app and flagging it as spam. Report cybercrime incidents to the FBI/IC3; these reports are crucial to national cybercrime data-collection efforts. Collecting information about the scope and impact of cybercrime helps address cybercrime as a whole. 

For more information about how to recover from malicious applications and extensions, visit our recovery resource page.

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