WebRTC World Feature Article

August 08, 2016

Firefox 48 Released With Mandatory Add-On Signing and Multi-Process Support


Every new iteration of a browser has multiple features added to address the performance, functionality and security flaws of the previous version. For the new Mozilla Firefox 48, the updates have been called the most important the browser has received in quite some time. This includes multi-process threads (e10s, Electrolysis), which will let Firefox compete with Chrome when it comes to performance, as well as Rust component, and enforcement of mandatory add-on signing without a way to deactivate or go around the feature.

Electrolysis or e10s

Electrolysis, e10s, or multi-process support is able to separate the process on the browser. What this means for the user is, if one tab crashes or freezes, the browser or other tabs won't be affected with the same problem.

Support for e10s is not going to be a wide release. Initially only 1 percent of users without any add-ons in their browser will get it, followed by 50 and 100 percent of the same user group. This feature will be released in three parts, beginning with Firefox 48 and ending with Firefox 50, when Electrolysis will be enabled for all users, including those with add-ons.

Rust Code

Rust is a memory-safe programming language designed to provide the performance capability of C++ but without the security flaws. The media parser written in Rust is going to make it much harder to crack. This protection was put in place because media playback code is an attack vector used by hackers on desktop and mobile platforms to exploit vulnerabilities.

Mandatory add-on Signing

Being able to install any add-on on to Firefox has been the norm until now, but that is no longer the case. The mandatory add-on signing process will prevent users from installing add-ons unless it has been approved by the testers at Mozilla. Although this feature was introduced on an earlier version of Firefox, it had an option that let users disable it.

This feature will probably upset a lot of users, but it is a security feature that is essential in today's digital threat environment.

Security

Rust and the mandatory add-on signing are essentially security features, but Firefox 48 has additional tools to protect users.

Two new protective measures warn users when they are trying to download potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) or uncommon files. If an executable file which may contain an adware or a file that is not popular is being downloaded, Firefox will tag it. The toolbar will label malicious downloads with a red exclamation mark, and unwanted programs or uncommon applications with a yellow exclamation mark.

The importance of getting the latest browser on your device can not be understated. The annual Vulnerability Review by Secunia Research at Flexera Software revealed there has been a 44 percent increase in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari, which are five of the most popular browsers. In 2014 there were 1,076 vulnerabilities and by 2015 it had jumped to 1,114. While using the latest version of a browser will not guarantee your safety 100 percent, it makes it that much more difficult for hackers to exploit.




Edited by Alicia Young




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