Browsing the internet can be risky business these days with malware, spyware, and browser-based trackers all trying to invade your privacy and security.
Chrome users can fight back by using the right extensions. You will find a variety of add-ons designed to ward off malicious code, protect your online privacy, and block intrusive ads. Let’s look at some of the best ones and see how they can enhance your Google Chrome experience.
How to Add Chrome Extensions
Google Chrome extensions are housed in the Chrome Web Store, where you can add them directly to your browser. Any extensions you add can be controlled from the upper-right corner of Chrome, allowing you easy access to their settings.
If an extension doesn’t appear at the top of Chrome, click the Extensions icon (the one that looks like a puzzle piece). You can then select the pin for the specific extension, and it will now appear in the browser.
Display ads help pay the bills for many websites, but the ones that pop up unexpectedly in your browser can be annoying and intrusive. The goal behind AdBlock Plus is to stop ads that disrupt your web browsing, including pop-ups, video ads, and flashing banner ads.
After installing AdBlock Plus, you should be able to surf the web without the same types of intrusive ads that bothered you in the past. If you click the AdBlock Plus icon in your browser toolbar, you will see how many items have been blocked on the current site and how many across all sites.
From this window, you can also turn off ad blocking for a specific site. If AdBlock Plus missed an item you consider an ad, click the Block Element button and then select the item on the page you want to block. By default, AdBlock Plus allows for Acceptable Ads, which are those deemed less intrusive but necessary for websites to continue providing free content. You can turn off that option if you don’t want to see any ads at all.
To configure the extension, right-click the AdBlock Plus toolbar icon and select Options. You can then block specific types of tracking, add whitelisted websites, and include or remove filter lists to determine which types of sites and ads are blocked.
Malwarebytes Browser Guard
To protect your security and privacy, Malwarebytes Browser Guard attempts to block ads and trackers, malware, scam sites, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). After installation, the extension will automatically try to prevent any malicious or unwanted content and activity from impacting your browser.
You can check a particular website if you select the Malwarebytes icon and then click the Let’s Go button. The extension will indicate how many, if any, pieces of unwanted content it blocked on the current site with details on what was blocked.
If you trust the site and don’t want a certain type of content to be blocked, hover over the content and click the checkmark for Trust on this site. Click Statistics to see how many pieces of content have been blocked today, the past week, the past two weeks, or the past month.
From the Malwarebytes window, you can also turn off the blocking of any type of content, such as ads and trackers or PUPs. To further configure the extension, click the Settings icon in the window. Here, you’re able to turn all protection settings on or off, block suspicious domains, and protect your credit card information from being digitally skimmed, or stolen, on checkout pages.
Trend Micro Check
Trend Micro Check analyzes each website you visit for different types of suspicious or harmful content. It will block unwanted and annoying ads, warn you if you browse to a fraudulent or scam site, and display a warning if you load a phishing or malicious site capable of stealing your password or personal information. It can even shield you from fake news by checking the reliability of content on a specific site against other sources.
After installing the extension, you will be prompted to set it up by choosing what websites will elicit a warning, including those that have pornography, gambling, pirated content, and false information. Trend Micro will also inform you of any ads and trackers that have been blocked, let you clear your browsing history, and display any related news items.
If you hit a website that strikes you as suspicious or malicious, click the Trend Micro icon in the browser. The extension will tell you if the site is safe or dangerous. If the site triggers a red flag, an alert immediately pops up with a button you can click to quickly exit the site.
Duck Duck Go Privacy Essentials
The folks behind the DuckDuckGo privacy-minded search engine also offer Duck Duck Go Privacy Essentials. This Chrome extension aims to block third-party cookies and hidden trackers, prevents sites from fingerprinting you to obtain specific details about your browser and system, forces all sites to use HTTPS encryption, and sets your default search engine to DuckDuckGo.
Browse to a particular site after installing the extension and then click its icon. The drop-down window tells you if the site uses encryption, reports on any blocked tracking requests, and assigns a privacy grade to the site. Select any of the indicators to view more details.
Websites, advertisers, and other third-party companies track your online activities, but finding out who’s tracking you, and where they come from, is a challenge. Disconnect shows you the names of specific web trackers for each site you visit and lets you block them from snooping on you.
To block web trackers, the basic version of Disconnect is free, though the company asks you to donate an amount of your choosing to keep the program going. For $50 a year, a Premium edition kicks in a VPN and a panel that shows you which sites you have blocked.
You can now navigate to a website like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or even Google and click the Disconnect toolbar icon. The extension displays the types of tracking requests that were received for each site—advertising, analytics, social, and content.
Click a specific type of request to see the names of the actual trackers. Block individual trackers by deselecting them or turn off that type of tracking completely for that site. You can whitelist a website to unblock all tracking and view a visual graph of the site to see all the tracking connections, both blocked and unblocked.
Many extensions that block web trackers depend on specific filters to keep out content. Others force you to manually decide whether to allow or block each site. Privacy Badger tries to save you from all this work by learning which sites attempt to track you and then blocking that content.
This process works by sending a Do Not Track signal to those websites. By itself, this request won’t accomplish much since websites typically disregard them. However, if the request is ignored, Privacy Badger learns to block the tracking elements. The extension also starts blocking if it sees the same tracker on three different sites.
Open to a particular site and click Privacy Badger’s toolbar icon. You can see which trackers were blocked and modify or turn off the blocking for that site if you so choose.
Chrome allows you to delete cookies, clear browsing cache, and avoid tracking through Incognito Mode, but Click&Clean offers all those abilities and more through an easily accessible panel. In addition, this add-on gives you the ability to quickly delete your browsing data (manually or when you close Chrome), remove pages stored in the cache, run a privacy check, and scan for malware.
Once installed, click the toolbar icon to display the panel of all available features and commands. The Main section offers options to securely close the browser, clear private data, view the cache, view and delete your history, go incognito, and manage your cookies. Selecting a specific option then displays the related data so you can view and remove it.
You can further customize the extension if you right-click the Click&Clean toolbar icon and select Options. From here, you can decide which items you want removed anytime you clear your data: browsing history, cache, saved passwords, download history, cookies, form data, and more. You can either select each item separately or choose a general level of protection ranging from low to high.