Security Market Segment LS
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 09:17

Firefox protection is not a FireFix

By

Mozilla’s Firefox browser has had a security update that beefs up the Private Window viewing option. Or does it?

Lance Cottrell, chief scientist for Passages at Ntrepid thinks otherwise.

“Firefox’s new ‘Private Browsing with Tracking Protection’ provides significantly improved privacy, but is still far from comprehensive. Users are still vulnerable to tracking through browser fingerprinting, IP addresses, malware, and other advanced techniques. Providing privacy and security by blocking ads and third party content is a short term fix,” he said.

“We are already seeing websites deploying ad-blocker-blockers where websites deny access to users with active ad blockers. As long as the fight stays within conventional browsers, this will continue to be a cat and mouse fight with no clear path to victory,” he added.

Privacy and security are inextricably linked. Any security breach has immediate privacy implications for the user as the attacker accesses their files and activities.

While Firefox users will enjoy fewer ‘creepy’, targeted ads with Firefox’s new feature, the real risk with browsing today is not knowing the damage that could be inflicted by visiting the wrong site. With a truly secure browser, a user should be able to click on any link, or visit any website, knowing that even if it is malicious, they are not at risk. Addressing user privacy issues is a start, but there is still much to be done.

Browser fingerprints and IP addresses allow advertisers, and sophisticated attackers, to identify users without using cookies or other apparent trackers.

Modern browsers are now so complicated, and support so many additional plugins, that they are impossible to secure against dangerous exploits.

Most user’s risk [in addition to tracking] comes from unknowingly clicking on malicious links. Secure browsers should protect users and computers from these kinds of attacks. Last week the CYREN Cyber Threat Report revealed how difficult it is for an average user to identify a suspect link in a browser or their inbox. Cyber-criminals have started to intensify their attacks on Fridays, knowing that employees would be less protected over the weekend.

“Browsers are like nuclear fuel: very powerful and useful, but too dangerous to leave out in the open. Because browsers are both extremely dangerous and absolutely necessary, we need to encapsulate them within a protective barrier so that they can be safely harnessed without putting us at risk,” Cottrell says.

Cottrell  is a well-known expert on security, privacy, anonymity, misattribution and cryptography. He started developing Internet anonymity tools in 1992 (Anonymizer) while pursuing a PhD. in Astrophysics, eventually leaving to work on those technologies full time. As Chief Scientist he continues to push the envelope with the new technologies and capabilities required to stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats. He is chief scientist at Ntrepid responsible for developing the Passages secure browser for business.

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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