Staying Up to Date: Plugins and Extensions

Overview

Third-party plugins and extensions are programs or add-ons that are developed by someone other than the browser or computer’s manufacturer, but are designed to work within the selected software.

These add-ons have nearly become a necessity when browsing the web and are heavily used in sites such as Blackboard Learn and Lynda training videos .  However, it is important to note that these plugins must be kept up to date just like any other software on your machine.  Recently, major vulnerabilities were found in both Java and Flash.  Browser extensions and plugins such as these are constantly being updated to patch these vulnerabilitis. Allowing these browser add-ons to remain out of date can open up a device to attacks through known exploitations. Moreover, some plugins may need to be disabled between updates to protect from newly discovered vulnerabilities before they have been fixed.  As such it is important to stay up to date and remained informed about both current and upcoming patches.

Java and Adobe Flash Player can both be downloaded straight from their websites to ensure that they are up to date with the most recent versions. To make sure your browser has the current releases of these applications, visit the download pages for Java and Flash Player.



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Chrome

Plugins

To access plugins in Chrome, go to chrome://plugins/. This will bring up a list of all the plugins currently within in the browser and information about them when the “Details” option in the right corner is selected.  From here the plugins can be enabled or disabled. If a plugin is in need of an update, the update will be shown to the right of it. Also, Chrome has plugin settings that can be accessed from chrome://settings/ under “Advanced Settings” > “Privacy” > “Content Settings”.

Extensions

Extensions in Chrome are found at chrome://extensions/. They are also listed out and have the ability to be enabled, disabled, or deleted.  These options are located to the right of the extension. To update the extension, enter developer mode by selecting the check box in the upper right corner and then click “Update Extensions Now” to update.

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Firefox

Plugins

Firefox plugins can be found under the “Tools” tab and then by selecting “Add-ons”. The Firefox Add-ons Manager will then open. Click on the “Plugins” section on the left side topic menu to bring up the active plugins. When a plugin needs to be updated, the update appears as a warning message above the plugin or go to Mozilla Plugin Check to view the plugin status located to the right of the plugin. If the plugin requires an update, it will be state here with the option to update. There is also a button to enable or disable the plugin (depending on the current setting) to the far right of each plugin.

Extensions

These are also found in the Firefox Add-on Manager as the second topic down in the left topic menu. They have similar options to the plugins.  Also, if a plugin is no longer compatible with Firefox, due to update status, generic compatibility issues, or level danger, The browser will show the extension shaded with the reasoning listed above it. To update extensions select the gear in the right corner and click “Check for Updates.”  If updates are found, install.

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Safari

Plugins

In order to access plugins in Safari, the “Help” tab must be selected, followed by “Installed Plug-ins” from the drop down menu. Each plugin is then listed with some information about it as well. To enable or disable plugins in Safari go to “Safari” > “Preferences” > “Security”.  At the bottom of the menu is a checkbox to Allow all other plug-ins. If this is selected, then all third-party plugins are enabled. If it is not, then the plugins are disabled. Also, when the apple product performs system updates, plugins are updated as well.

Extensions

These are also found in the Firefox Add-on Manager as the second topic down in the left topic menu. They have similar options to the plugins.  Also, if a plugin is no longer compatible with Firefox, due to update status, generic compatibility issues, or level danger, The browser will show the extension shaded with the reasoning listed above it. To update extensions select the gear in the right corner and click “Check for Updates.”  If updates are found, install.

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Internet Explorer

Plugins

Internet Explorer calls plugins “addons” and consolidates them into one menubox.

Extensions

Internet Explorer extensions can be accessed in the “Manage Add-ons” window located in the “Tools” menu. Upon opening the manager, “Toolbars and Extensions” should already be selected with the extensions shown to the right. Upon selecting an extensions options will show up in the lower section. 

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Final Thoughts

With the increasing number of available browser addons available, vulnerabilities are found regularly.  Because of this, developers patch their software and release updates regularly.  It is up to the user to apply these updates. 

For specific information on how to enable or disable Java, visit the official help page and navigate to the instructions for any browser that you use.



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