Blog/Expert Analysis/

What is Search Encrypt and why should you avoid it

Apr 17, 2020

Most websites can see your location, your device, and your browser activity — that’s how you get those personalized ads on the internet.

Search Encrypt is an extension for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and others that claim to make your search data more private. Purportedly, it lets you stay anonymous and prevents you from seeing the same ads all the time.

While that sounds invaluable for searching articles, videos, and photos on the web, it’s, in fact, a browser hijacker that can change your settings and infect your system. In this article, we’ll explore what Search Encrypt is, how it works, and why it’s not safe to use.

What is Search Encrypt — the real truth

The developers of Search Encrypt use a pay-per-click marketing strategy without taking any responsibility for the content provided by third parties. Not only does it collect browsing data for marketing purposes, it can also redirect you to potentially harmful websites and start auto-installing suspicious software.

Search Encrypt can end up on your computer without your knowledge by secretly piggybacking on other programs. You may even download it by accident.

How can I tell if my computer has Search Encrypt?

  • You start seeing pop-ups and banners you haven’t before.
  • You are redirected to websites you had no intention of visiting upon clicking a link.
  • Your browser becomes slower.
  • Your Homepage and default search engine are set to Search Encrypt, even if you try to restore your previous settings.

How safe are Chrome and Mozilla extensions?

How is it possible that this piece of malware is listed in the Chrome Web Store?

In the beginning of 2020, Google removed 500 malicious Chrome extensions from the Web Store. Combined, they had millions of downloads. Unfortunately, even when removed, these extensions soon reappear under different names. Some users accidentally install malware instead of the actual extension — this happens quite a lot with AdBlock.

Mozilla recently removed around 200 extensions that were malicious or didn’t meet its security standards. While the majority of extensions are checked prior to approval, a few get around reviewers and end up online. They can steal user credentials, install malicious programs, track your behavior, and even ruin your system.

How can I tell if an extension is safe?

  • Double-check spelling, grammar, and capitalization in the app title and description.
  • Check the reviews, but be cautious — some of them can be fake.
  • Pay attention to which permissions the extension asks for.
  • Be extremely careful if an extension has a small number of downloads, but know that millions of downloads do not always guarantee safety, either — Search Encrypt had more than 3 million on the Chrome Web Store.

We recommend avoiding this extension at all costs. If you’ve already downloaded it, check out our article on how to remove Search Encrypt from your browser.

Eva Simpson

Eva Simpson

Verified author

Eva is usually the quiet one in the gang. But don’t let that silent demeanor fool you. She’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And when she’s not kicking butts, Eva loves to dissect complex tech topics in a way even 5-year olds would understand.