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Chrome is getting a big security update to make browsing safer — how it works

The Google Chrome logo displayed on a laptop screen.
(Image credit: monticello/Shutterstock)

Google Chrome is making it easier to spot dodgy extensions and downloads, as part of an expansion to the browser’s Enhanced Safe Browsing mode.

Enhanced Safe Browsing launched last year and utilizes real-time URL checks and machine-learning models to help warn users about possible attacks. As a result, Google claims those using it are successfully phished 35% less often than those who haven’t activated it — and this update should make it safer still.

The update, which is rolling out in Chrome 91, specifically concerns extensions and downloads, which are common routes for hackers to try to compromise your machine. 

Once the update has rolled out, and if you're using Enhanced Safe Browsing Mode, you'll have to go through a couple of extra steps to install any extension that’s not trusted — i.e. made by a developer that doesn’t follow Google’s Developer Program Policies.

google chrome enhanced safe browsing mode

(Image credit: Google)

Google’s not going to stop you from installing the extension in question, but it will make sure to warn you about what it might be capable of. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like this will happen very often, since Google says almost three-quarters of Chrome Store extensions are considered trusted.  

google chrome enhanced safe browsing mode

(Image credit: Google)

When it comes to downloads, things are a little bit simpler. Whenever Chrome suspects that a download is “risky, but not clearly unsafe” it will give you the option to upload them to Google’s servers to be checked more thoroughly. If Google still considers the file unsafe, it will tell you about it.

This process isn’t mandatory, and you have the choice to ignore Chrome’s warnings at any stage, but it does give you an extra level of security when you’re downloading files from the web.

The changes to Enhanced Safe Browsing mode are available in Chrome 91, and are rolling out to users right now. You can turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing by heading to Chrome’s settings menu, clicking the security option, and selecting the ‘Enhanced protection’ mode.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.