Mozilla security chief on protecting Firefox users

Window Snyder says browser vendors must work together -- and not blame users

IT keeps warning users to be cautious and not open attachments from unknown senders, for example. But users keep on doing it. Are users just dumb, as some experts say?

Users are not dumb. I get upset when I hear that. They're trying to accomplish a task. If the security interface gets in the way, or if the security interface isn't easy to understand, they're going to go around it, whether it's clicking through a certificate warning or trying to follow an e-mail link that says your bank account is going to be frozen if you don't confirm your personal information details on this page. For all these things, the user is trying to accomplish a task. The attacker has created a sense of urgency. The easiest thing in front of them is to click on the link right in front of them.

What needs to be done about it?

We can build mechanisms into browsers and e-mail software that will mitigate users being hurt by these attacks. Firefox 3 has antiphishing and antimalware mechanisms that identify that a site has malware on it and blocks the user from visiting it. Currently, it just throws up a UI [user interface] that is pretty hard to confuse that something serious has happened here. The UI will change until the product ships, but it will make it clear that this is a site that has malware on it, and it doesn't let you click through. It's not done until it ships, so it might look different in the final version. It depends on the feedback from the beta and from the community.

What change in Firefox 3 are you the most excited about?

I'm pretty excited about the malware-protection feature. And this is not a feature that users can feel. There's a lot of security work that goes in under the hood. Anytime you rewrite a piece of software with the security knowledge you have in 2007 compared to the knowledge you had in 2005 or 2006, it's going to be a stronger piece of software because you know more. Different threats have emerged, and [there are] different mechanisms for protecting them. A lot of memory management stuff has changed. That will be a pretty significant enhancement to overall security. A lot of security issues are memory management issues. Anything that mitigates those is a benefit to the entire application, as opposed to a single feature.

Last year, you had to deal with some bugs in the Firefox protocol handler. What did you learn from that whole experience?

One of the most interesting trends in application security is the interaction between multiple applications. We saw some of that this summer with the URI [Uniform Resource Identifier] issues. We saw that with Safari to Firefox, and IE to Firefox, and IE to Outlook and multiple applications. The URI stuff is just an example of a larger trend -- interactions between multiple applications and vulnerabilities between them. It creates a situation where both vendors need to put protection in place to keep it from happening.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?