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Security Settings for Mozilla Firefox


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9 replies to this topic

#1 troubleddude

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:02 AM

Hi there. I recently got help in removing a virus/trojan/backdoor/terrible thing from this website. Once I was in the all-clear I was given a standard "All clean post" which, among other things contained settings for Internet Explorer. I mentioned that I use Firefox almost 100% and asked if there were any specific settings I should set for it. I was referred here as he said he never uses Firefox. So here I am. If any kind guru can enlighten me, I am most greatful :) If it helps, I am using Mozilla Firefox version 3.0.1. I am also quite interested to know general information regarding the security, benefits, pros and cons between different browsers. Kind regards The troubleddude

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#2 DanielD

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:16 AM

Well Mozilla FireFox doesn't have many security features, mainly because it has most of them permanently and automatically enabled. Here the ones you can turn on and off yourself. I suggest having them all on.

Go to Tools > Options and go to the Content Tab. From the content tab you can turn the pop up blocker, automatic image loader, and javascripts on and off, as well as allow certain sites to be able to show pop ups even while the blocker is on (for if you need some kind of friendly pop up from a site).

Go to Tools > Options and the Security Tab. "Warn me when sites try to install add-ons", "Tell me if the site I'm visiting is a suspected attack site", and "Tell me if the site I'm visiting is suspected of forgery" should be turned on.

Those are about the only security features you can customize on FF, however it still runs much more secure than IE.

Also you asked about the pros an cons of each. Well in short, IEs cons are it is slow, has severe errors not just in accessing website but while viewing them, it's pros are it's more customizable security features. FF is actually a faster web browser than IE, it is much more secure and safe, it is free and it is contently undergoing updates to make it better. Also FF has more customizations to the actual browser, including thousands of add-ons. A con would be that some websites (mainly Microsoft ones) require you to be using IE to view them, you will simply get an error message telling you so if you try to visit them with IE.

For a full list of the pros to FF, check out these links.
http://www.mozilla.c...refox/features/
http://www.mozilla.c...efox/customize/
http://www.mozilla.c...refox/security/

And here is an article about a brief history of both and which is better.
http://reviews.cnet....-5561073-1.html

Edited by Vectris, 15 August 2008 - 07:16 AM.

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#3 Digerati

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 10:55 AM

Wow! That's a pretty slanted review of FF! Three "pros" links that take you to the maker's own site, and a 4 year old review of a 7 year old, obsolete, IE6! Come on! To start, IE7 is greatly improved over IE6, with many new security features including a phishing filter, popup blocker, able add-on manger, and very configurable security set. All Windows users should be up to IE7, even if using a different default browser.

it still runs much more secure than IE.

No it doesn't! It has some inherent security advantages but that does not mean you are at risk if you prefer IE7, nor does it mean that IE7 cannot be hardened further. But more importantly, there is much more to having a secure system than the browser of choice!

IEs... ... is slow

No it's not. I use IE7 exclusively on this machine but keep FF installed and current on a test machine. In a side-by-side comparison on similar computers (different HDs), some sites load faster with IE, some with FF - but note we are talking usually less than 1 second in difference with a pretty quick cable connection. I have never found a site that Firefox could open that IE could not, except for a couple created by FF enthusiasts, designed to block any browser but FF. And certainly there are many secure sites (financial, Microsoft, and government) that only allow secure access with IE. For this reason alone, all Windows users should be at IE7.

has severe errors not just in accessing website but while viewing them

Huh? No it doesn't. If anything, FF has more problems accessing some sites, particularly those that have not been rewritten for more "generic" (non-browser specific) access.

Before this just turns into a MS and IE bashing session, the facts are there are nearly 1 Billion Windows users out there, with 100s of millions of them using IE7 and almost all are doing just fine - they are not infected, their systems are not compromised. I have two test machines that run XPHomeSP3, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, AVG8 (with anti-spyware disabled), and IE7 with default settings. These machines are exposed to many threats through my projects, and by their use by my kids, grandkids, and guests. These machines continue to test clean. Disclaimer: All systems are behind an Ethernet router with NAT, grandkids' accounts are limited, all others have admin access.

I have had this conversation many times with many friends, colleagues, co-workers, fellow staff, and regular posters who make such claims. The conversation always stops dead when I ask, "Did you STOP getting infected immediately after switching to Firefox? Or did it take awhile?" When I get to ask in person, the looks are hilarious.

Here's my opinion on that - most Firefox users switched to FF because they were afraid of IE - and NOT because they were getting infected - great timing, and being pushed along by a brilliant Mosaic marketing team effectively selling IE's faults set the exaggerated rumors in motion. That's not to say the threats and bad guys are not real - for surely they are and we must be vigilant. But we have more than one choice.

FF is a good browser, and I like it, having my roots back in Netscape days (where I first got hooked on tabbed browsing). But I like IE7 better (and 8 looks promising). But that's my opinion.

The facts are as FF gains marketing share, so too does it gain the attention of badguys looking to exploit its faults. FF has quite a few too, with new ones discovered all the time. If you (speaking to everybody) practice safe computing, that is, you keep your systems patched and updated, scanned and monitored with updated real-time anti-malware, blocked behind a firewall, attachments and downloads are scanned before opening, you don't click on unsolicited links, and you avoid sites badguys are known to wallow in (porn, gambling, P2P that allow illegal filesharing of copyrighted materials), then it does not matter what browser you use.

An irresponsible user that does not practice safe computing (see the Practicing Safe Computing section of Cleaning Out Malware) may delay (but not prevent) infestation if using Firefox compared to out-of-the-box IE7 on the same PC. Fortunately, Windows does come with an able real-time AS and adequate firewall that work just fine for most users.

So, I recommend you try FF, if you like it, stick with it. If not, go back to IE7.
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#4 DanielD

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 11:36 AM

I see there were some errors in my statement. However all of the things you have quoted from me I stated based on experience. I did a side-by-side comparison to (I have 5 computers at my house) and I even switched between which one used FF and which one used IE just to make sure, and FF would load faster all the time. You have to test them on intense web pages that involve not just text and images but flash animations and javascripts. FF went a lot faster for everything. And that is fact for my computer. Maybe it varies but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. Also IE does have more errors than FF, the most common are where IE reads colors and styles wrong and web pages come out looking bad, I have never encountered a page that FF displayed an error on and IE didn't. Once again this is based more on experience and personal usage, so you can't say I'm wrong. Perhaps on average you can say that FF has more errors, but whenever I encounter other people who use FF they agree with my statements. I made them based on experience, not what they are said to do or not do.

I also believe FF to be more secure as it's pop-blocker works much better than IEs, I did another side-by-side comparison by going to add-sites and seeing which one prevented the most pop-ups, FF blocked nearly every one.

You are right though in that IE can be made more secure as it has several more security options, but those same security options often block good things too, and for me FF has been pretty good and allowing the right things to go through.

To avoid being owned by digerati again (yes you did a good job...) I will not say anything else other than:

1. There is no perfect browser, each have major cons and major pros.

2. Each has there own security issues and each is better and some things than others.

So the best way to get all the information you want is to try it yourself. It's very easy to get them both and it's fine to have them both running on your computer. Test them out and see for yourself.

Also you shouldn't be worried so about securing your browser, if you want to avoid viruses, browsers only 2nd or 3rd on the list of protection. 1st should be your anti-virus program, that has the best chance of stopping viruses, and also allows you to remove them.
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#5 DanielD

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 11:43 AM

Oh and here is a much better article on the latest versions of each browser, it even includes the IE 8 beta.

http://www.crn.com/software/208403208

And digerati

"Smart" bookmarking gives a quick list of all items recently bookmarked or tagged. Security appears to be beefed up in this release of Firefox. Reviewers purposefully infected the test PC with some particularly annoying adware programs. IE infection was immediate, but Mozilla was able to stave off the malware. The pornographic pop-ups and site redirections that occurred after installing the malware became a nuisance in IE 8 but did not happen with using Mozilla.


That's what I mean by "more secure".
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#6 Digerati

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 12:03 PM

You have to test them on intense web pages that involve not just text and images but flash animations and javascripts.

No you don't - you have to test them for "your" normal usage. Note in your scenario, FF did poorly,

Opening www.nick.com, IE took 10 seconds to fully load, Mozilla took 20. Loading the home page for Disney.com; IE was 21 seconds to load and Mozilla was 46 seconds.

Reviewers purposefully infected the test PC with some particularly annoying adware programs. IE infection was immediate, but Mozilla was able to stave off the malware. The pornographic pop-ups and site redirections that occurred after installing the malware became a nuisance in IE 8 but did not happen with using Mozilla.

That's what I mean by "more secure".

And that is what I mean by slanted. If you intentionally subject your systems to the worst of the worst - that is, if you "willfully" bypass your router, disable your firewall, shutdown your AV program, and install hand-picked malicious code on the computer, then yes - FF is more secure against that! I wonder how FF would do if that code was hand-picked based on known vulnerabilities in FF?

I am not saying IE7 is superior, I am just saying if a user likes IE, there is no reason to not use it.
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Heat is the bane of all electronics!

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#7 troubleddude

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 04:56 PM

:popcorn: Intensify. Thanks for the links Vectris, some very interesting bits of information there. And I suppose thanks to Digerati for a different perspective - even if it was in a sort-of-taking-it-personally kind of way heh! I guess we all like what we like :)

#8 DanielD

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 05:20 PM

:popcorn: Intensify. Thanks for the links Vectris, some very interesting bits of information there. And I suppose thanks to Digerati for a different perspective - even if it was in a sort-of-taking-it-personally kind of way heh!

I guess we all like what we like :)


Ya, sorry for turning your thread into a FF vs. IE battleground :smack:. Anyways I think me and Digerati both agree that if your worried about security you should definitely concentrate on your anti-virus protection. I use AVG Free Edition 8 however there are a number of other free anti-virus programs that probably work better. Perhaps Digerati can give you some links to some good ones. Also FF is basically as secure as you can make it, there aren't many options to make it better. IE however does have some more customization on protection and security. That doesn't mean you have to switch back to IE though. Just be careful where you surf and make sure you get a good anti-virus program and you should stay clean for a while. And if you ever get another virus there's no place better to get it removed then here ;) (Digerati should agree on that one).

Edited by Vectris, 15 August 2008 - 05:24 PM.

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#9 Digerati

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 09:22 PM

Anyways I think me and Digerati both agree that if your worried about security you should definitely concentrate on your anti-virus protection.

Since this is the primary area Windows does not have covered out of the box, ensuring good AV protection is critical, but again, the most important part is the user. The best defense in the world is useless if the user opens the door and lets the badguy in.

It is only personal in that I don't like misinformation presented - especially when it comes to security. While I certainly have some issues with the way MS has done business over the years, the facts are they make good products, and it is the badguys that put us in the security situation we are in today, not Microsoft. Too many people seem to forget that.
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#10 DanielD

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 08:59 AM

While I certainly have some issues with the way MS has done business over the years, the facts are they make good products, and it is the badguys that put us in the security situation we are in today, not Microsoft. Too many people seem to forget that.

True, I'll remember that.

Since this is the primary area Windows does not have covered out of the box, ensuring good AV protection is critical, but again, the most important part is the user. The best defense in the world is useless if the user opens the door and lets the badguy in.

Even more true.

Also I will research my claims more before posting on topics like this where it's a software on software thing in which case you need to know a lot about both. Thank you for correcting me, the last thing needed is bad misinformation, apologies.
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