By Putting Users in Control, Mozilla Boosts Firefox Security, Stability
Article by George Norman
On 01 Feb 2013
In the past Mozilla’s Firefox browser would load any plugin a webpage requested. This behavior has changed – the user is now in control and that means a security, performance and stability boost for the browser.

If a webpage requested an outdated plugin, the Firefox web browser would load it. If a webpage requested a plugin that was known to be vulnerable, the Firefox browser would load it, even though this put the browser and the user at risk. I use the past tense because this default behavior has changed. Mozilla decided to put users in control of plugins by changing how the browser loads plugins.


If Firefox detects a problem with the plugin, that plugin will not be loaded. A prompt will be presented to the user so that he can choose what to do. The plugin will not play unless the user specifically gives it permission to do so. There are three reasons why this is a very good course of action for Mozilla:
  • The users are in control, as they should be. Users should always be able to control what plugins and what software runs on their machines.
  • The browser’s stability will not be impacted by poorly designed 3rd party plugins. Such plugins can lead to the browser freezing and even crashing. The negative implications of using unwanted plugins are taken out by the equation by only running the plugins the user wants to load. All this means increased performance and stability for Firefox.
  • Vulnerable plugins are one of the most common exploitation vectors. The security benefits of telling the user when a plugin is vulnerable are obvious.

“This change [in the way Firefox loads third party plugins] will help increase Firefox performance and stability, and provide significant security benefits, while at the same time providing more control over plugins to our users,” explained Michael Coates, a Senior Manager at Mozilla and leads the Infrastructure Security team which is responsible for web application, network and OS security used by Mozilla and millions of users each day.

In related plugin news, making sure you have the latest plugins is one of the Top 3 Tips to Keep Firefox Running Smoothly. You can check to see if you’re using any outdated plugins on Mozilla’s Plugin Check webpage here.

Tags: Mozilla, Firefox, plugin, security, browser
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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