AI browser extensions threaten data security

The development of AI browser extensions has not only brought benefits. Some extensions masquerade as helpful tools, but in reality they aim to steal personal data.

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) has led to a variety of new tools designed to make our digital lives easier and more efficient. In particular, AI-based browser extensions have proliferated in recent months, offering a wide range of functions, from summarizing web pages to generating code. But significant security risks lurk behind this apparent innovation.

The AI enhancements: A gateway for malware

The development of AI extensions has not only brought benefits. An alarming problem is that some of these extensions are malware. In some cases, browser extensions have been discovered that masquerade as helpful tools but are actually aimed at stealing personal data. A prominent example is a Chrome extension called “Quick access to Chat GPT” that hacked Facebook accounts and extracted users’ personal data.

What is even more worrying is that these malicious AI extensions often look legitimate and are difficult to distinguish from trusted products. The major technology platforms seem to have difficulty effectively monitoring and regulating this space, which puts data security at risk.

Security risks of legitimate AI extensions

Even seemingly legitimate AI-based browser extensions pose security risks. One of the main problems is that sensitive data shared with a generative AI could be included in the training data and viewed by other users. For example, imagine a senior executive uses an AI extension to spice up a report. A competitor could use the same extension to gain insight into the company’s strategy.

Another risk is that the extensions or the AI companies themselves could be victims of data breaches, leading to user data exposure. In addition, there could be copyright and legal issues, as AI-generated content often bears similarities to human sources.

The Unsolved Threat: Prompt Injection Attacks

An emerging and particularly threatening problem are so-called “prompt injection attacks”. Here, websites could steal data via linked AI tools by tricking the AI models into performing unwanted actions. This could have a significant impact on data security and privacy.

Responsible use of AI enhancements

Against the backdrop of these risks, it is essential to establish clear guidelines for the use of AI enhancements by employees. Companies face the challenge of balancing innovation with data security. One possible approach is to allow extensions only on a white list after assessing their security. Fully educating employees about security risks is just as important as monitoring the extensions they use.

The security risks associated with AI extensions are multi-faceted and severe. The rapid pace of development in this area requires deliberate action to reap the benefits of AI without the risk of data breaches. Organizations should ensure they have clear policies for the use of AI tools to ensure data security.

Source: Elaine Atwell (Kolide)