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This clever browser extension could banish viruses for good

With all the viruses, phishing scams and other malware lurking on the internet, using a web browser can be risky business these days. But one firm thinks it could make your web surfing much safer without adding any hassle.

A company named SquareX has just raised $6 million to develop an extension that would create virtual sandboxes within your web browser. Any time you’re tempted to open a file or click a link that comes from an unknown sender or could potentially pose a threat, SquareX’s extension would step in and let you open it in a kind of disposable browser.

A person using a laptop on a desk with a web browser showing the HubSpot marketplace on their screen.
Campaign Creators / Unsplash

The benefit of this approach is that the sandbox is run at SquareX’s data centers, meaning there’s a virtual barrier placed between your personal information and the link or file you open. If that content turns out to be malicious, it can’t get to your data.

The idea for SquareX came from researcher Vivek Ramachandran, who previously ran Pentester Academy, which educated companies on how their websites and products could be hacked.

According to Ramachandran, Pentester Academy customers told him how their users often disabled their own security software because it was cumbersome or got in the way. A user receiving a Word document from a trusted contact, for example, might disable their antivirus app after it flagged the document as malicious. Because the file came from someone they trusted, the users dismissed their antivirus app’s verdict, thereby potentially putting their computer at risk – as well as any other computers on the company’s network.

The SquareX extension, on the other hand, will not block access to these files. But because everything is sequestered in a virtual sandbox, opening a malicious file cannot damage the host computer that it was opened on.

The extension serves a second purpose, which is to let users browse the web anonymously without needing to use one of the best VPN services. Since any cookies and browsing history are stored in a temporary browser that gets disposed of when the user is finished, there’s no lingering fingerprint or tracking of their activity on the internet.

Now that artificial intelligence (AI) tools are on the rise and chatbots like ChatGPT can create malware, protecting yourself on the internet is going to become more important than ever. If SquareX’s extension is as good as the company says it is, it could end up being a useful tool to safeguard your personal information from bad actors.

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