Firefox aims to make IE, Safari browsing more secure

A new Web service from Mozilla scans more browsers for out-of-date plugins, a source of security problems

Mozilla has expanded a service that checks if a browser's plugins are current to now scan Internet Explorer, Safari Opera and Chrome in addition to its own Firefox.

Plugins are small bits of code that enable other applications to run within a Web browser, such as Adobe's Flash multimedia program. But outdated plugins are a danger for Internet users, as they can contain software vulnerabilities that can be used to gain remote control over someone's PC.

The problem has been recognized for some time, and some vendors have incorporated automated software update alerts to let users know when either they need to download a new plugin.

But others have no such mechanism. Each Web browser requires its own plugin, and if a user doesn't know a new version is available, they're unlikely to update it, which puts them at risk. Mozilla said studies have shown that up to 80 percent of users have an outdated plugin.

The latest version of Mozilla's Firefox browser, version 3.6, automatically checks for outdated plugins, but other browsers do not. For other browsers, Mozilla has built a Web service that will scan to see if several types of plugins are current.

"We believe that plugin safety is an issue for the Web as a whole, so while our initial efforts focused on building a page that would work for Firefox users, the team has since expanded plugin check coverage to work with Safari 4, Chrome 4 and Opera 10.5," wrote Johnathan Nightingale, director of Firefox development.

"We have added support for Internet Explorer 7 and 8 for the most popular plugins as well, but since IE requires specific code to be written for each plugin, it will take us a little longer to get to full coverage," he wrote.

Mozilla launched the plugin project for its own Firefox browser last fall, focusing on Adobe's applications. After installing security updates, Firefox versions 3.5.3 and Firefox 3.0.14 would display a warning if the company's Flash player was out of date.

For Firefox, the new page will check for plugins such as Apple's QuickTime and Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia players, Adobe's Acrobat reader and Flash plugins plus others. For IE8, the page scans for Silverlight, Windows Media Player, Flash and QuickTime so far.

Mozilla is also appealing to software vendors to contribute to a plugin directory that will track when new versions are available.

"If you're a plugin vendor, we need your help," Nightingale wrote. "The directory is currently in alpha stages, and we need vendors to let us know as new versions come out and old versions become dangerous."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Firefoxweb browserssafariInternet Explorermozilla

More about Adobe SystemsAppleMicrosoftMozilla

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place