Check your Firefox extensions today. Some may leave your system open to attack

firefox 55 adds webvr support
Popular Firefox add-ons may expose systems Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr
It’s a good idea to check your browser extensions if you use Firefox. Nine of the 10 most popular extensions for Mozilla’s browser open computers to malware and security breaches, according to a research paper presented at the Black Hat conference by a group from Northeastern University.

Among the top Firefox add-ons, only AdBlock Plus doesn’t make your system vulnerable. The nine that do allow potential problems are Video DownloadHelper, Firebug, NoScript Security Suite, DownthemAll!, Greasemonkey, Web of Trust, Flash Video Downloader, FlashGot Mass Downloader, and Download Youtube Videos as MP4. These 10 are all available on the Mozilla website.

The problem occurs when users install Firefox add-ons. Because of the way Firefox is designed, those add-ons aren’t protected from each other. The researchers reported that an add-on with malware can “conceal its malicious behavior by invoking the capabilities of other add-ons.” The bottom line is when you download and subsequently use a trusted add-on with the vulnerability, destructive action may take place in the background while you think everything is working correctly.

Nick Nguyen, VP of product for Firefox, acknowledged the issue in a statement to Digital Trends: “The way add-ons are implemented in Firefox today allows for the scenario hypothesized and presented at Black Hat Asia. The method described relies on a popular add-on that is vulnerable to be installed, and then for the add-on that takes advantage of that vulnerability to also be installed.

“Because risks such as this one exist, we are evolving both our core product and our extensions platform to build in greater security,” continued Nguyen. “The new set of browser extension APIs that make up WebExtensions, which are available in Firefox today, are inherently more secure than traditional add-ons, and are not vulnerable to the particular attack outlined in the presentation at Black Hat Asia. As part of our electrolysis initiative – our project to introduce multi-process architecture to Firefox later this year – we will start to sandbox Firefox extensions so that they cannot share code.“

How to remove Firefox Add-ons

If have Firefox installed on your computer, here’s what you can do today.

In the upper right corner of your display, on the same line where you enter URLs, look on the far right. Click on the icon with three horizontal lines to bring up the settings menu. Click on Add-ons. An Add-on Manager browser tab will open with a menu on the upper left side of your screen. By default the menu will open the Extensions window; this is where you want to check for any of the problem add-ons we mentioned above in this article.

If you find them, our suggestion is to remove them by clicking the Remove button for each. Don’t just click the Disable button to turn them off, you want them gone, so hit Remove.

If you find and remove vulnerable add-ons, it’s a great idea to run antivirus and spam checking software on your system. Set scan options for a full system check, not just the quick check mode most virus and malware scanning programs offer. Computer security, even for single systems at home, is a never-ending concern.

Updated on April 6 at 6 p.m. PT by Jeffrey Van Camp: Firefox got back to us with a quote. We’ve updated the article, which was originally published earlier today.


Google’s updated Santa Tracker entertains and teaches coding throughout December

Google's Santa Tracker is in its fifteenth year and is back again with even more features. You can have fun with more than 20 games, learn about different holiday traditions around the world, and enjoy some festive animations.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.

Give your eyes a break with these handy blue light filters

Filtering blue light from your monitor is a great way to make long days of work easier on your eyes, especially when it gets later in the day. You can use ones built into MacOS and Windows, or one of the third-party options.

Change your Outlook password quickly and easily by following these steps

Keeping your digital accounts locked up with strong, unique passwords is important, so learning how to change your Outlook password quickly and easily is one of the best ways to stay safe online.

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.

Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.