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Security

Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used To Steal Browser Data (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: "Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff," reports Bleeping Computer. "The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products." According to two privacy and security experts, Lukasz Olejnik and Artur Janc, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.
The Internet

Newest Firefox Browser Bashes Crashes (cnet.com) 132

Nobody likes it when a web browser bombs instead of opening up a website. Mozilla is addressing that in the newly released v53 of its Firefox browser, which it claims crashes 10 percent fewer times. CNET adds: The improvement comes through the first big debut of a part of Project Quantum, an effort launched in 2016 to beef up and speed up Firefox. To improve stability, Firefox 53 on Windows machines isolates software called a compositor that's in charge of painting elements of a website onto your screen. That isolation into a separate computing process cuts down on trouble spots that can occur when Firefox employs computers' graphics chips, Mozilla said.
Firefox

Mozilla Kills Firefox Aurora Channel, Builds Will Move Directly From Nightly To Beta (venturebeat.com) 49

Mozilla said today it is killing the Firefox Aurora channel, six years after it was first introduced in April 2011. The move comes as, Aurora failed to live up to the company's expectations as a "first stabilization channel." Moving forward, the absence of Aurora will help the company streamline its browser's release process and bring stable new features to users and developers faster. From a report: The Firefox Aurora channel sat between the Nightly and Beta channels. Until now, Firefox development started with Nightly, which consists of the latest Firefox code packaged up every night for bleeding-edge testers, and was then followed by Aurora, which includes everything that is labeled as "experimental," then Beta, and then finally the release channel for the broader public. Going forward, builds will move from Nightly to Beta to Release. The Firefox Developer Edition, which the company calls "the first browser created specifically for developers," will be based on the Beta channel instead of Aurora. Developer Edition users should keep their existing profile, themes, tools, preferences, and "should not experience any disruption," Mozilla promises.
Google

Chrome 59 To Address Punycode Phishing Attack 68

Google says it will be rolling out a patch to Chrome in v59 to address a decade-old unicode vulnerability called Punycode that allowed attackers to fool people into clicking on compromised links. Engadget adds: Thanks to something called Punycode, phishers are able to register bogus domains that look identical to a real website. Take this proof-of-concept from software engineer Xudong Zheng, where apple.com won't take you to a store selling Macs, iPhones and iPads. The real website is actually https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e [dot] com. The xn-- prefix tells browsers like Chrome that the domain uses ASCII compatible encoding. It allows companies and individuals from countries with non-traditional alphabets to register a domain that contains A-Z characters but renders in their local language. The issue was first reported to Google and Mozilla on January 20th and Google has issued a fix in Chrome 59. It's currently live in the Canary (advance beta release) but the search giant will likely make it available to all Chrome users soon.
Firefox

Firefox To Let Users Control Memory Usage (bleepingcomputer.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Mozilla engineers are working on a new section in the browser's preferences that will let users control the browser's performance. Work on this new section started last Friday when an issue was opened in the Firefox bug tracker. Right now, the Firefox UI team has proposed a basic sketch of the settings section and its controls. Firefox developers are now working to isolate or implement the code needed to control those settings [1, 2, 3]. According to the current version of the planned Performance settings section UI, users will be able to control if they use UI animations (to be added in a future Firefox version), if they use page prefetching (feature to preload links listed on a page), and how many "content" processes Firefox uses (Firefox currently supports two processes [one for the Firefox core and one for content], but this will expand to more starting v54).
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Container Platform Deis From Engine Yard (techcrunch.com) 31

According to an announcement made earlier today, Microsoft has acquired Deis, "the company behind some of the most popular tools for building and managing applications on top of the Google-incubated Kubernetes container orchestration service," writes Frederic Lardinois via TechCrunch. From the report: "At Microsoft, we've seen explosive growth in both interest and deployment of containerized workloads on Azure, and we're committed to ensuring Azure is the best place to run them," Microsoft's executive VP for its cloud and enterprise group Scott Guthrie writes today. "To support this vision, we're pleased to announce that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Deis -- a company that has been at the center of the container transformation." Deis provides three core open-source tools for managing Kubernetes deployments: Workflow, a platform for developers and operations teams to easily deploy and manage containerized apps; the Kubernetes package manager Helm; and Steward, a Kubernetes-native service broker (which basically allows applications to talk to each other). Like similar companies, its business model relies on providing paid support and training for these applications. The team will continue to work on these open-source tools, which are currently in use by the likes of Mozilla, CloudMine and SocialRadar.
Mozilla

Tor Browser Will Feature More Rust Code (bleepingcomputer.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: "The Tor Browser, a heavily modified version of the Firefox browser with many privacy-enhancing features, will include more code written in the Rust programming language," reports BleepingComputer. In a meeting held last week in Amsterdam, Tor developers decided to slowly start using Rust to replace the C++ code. The decision comes after Mozilla started shipping Rust components with Firefox in 2016. Furthermore, Rust is a memory-safe(r) language than C++, the language used for Firefox and the customized Tor code, which means less memory corruption errors. Less of these errors means better privacy for all.
"Part of our interest in using safer languages like Rust in Tor is because a tiny mistake in C could have real consequences for real people," Tor developer Isis Agora Lovecruft posted on Twitter, adding "Also the barrier to entry for contributing to large OSS projects written in C is insanely high."
Software

FedEx Will Pay You $5 To Install Flash (theregister.co.uk) 90

FedEx's Office Print department is offering customers $5 to enable Adobe Flash in their browsers. Why would they do such a thing you may ask? It's because they want customers to design posters, signs, manuals, banners and promotional agents using their "web-based config-o-tronic widgets," which requires Adobe Flash. The Register reports: But the web-based config-o-tronic widgets that let you whip and order those masterpieces requires Adobe Flash, the enemy of anyone interested in security and browser stability. And by anyone we mean Google, which with Chrome 56 will only load Flash if users say they want to use it, and Microsoft which will stop supporting Flash in its Edge browser when the Windows 10 Creators Update debuts. Mozilla's Firefox will still run Flash, but not for long. The impact of all that Flash hate is clearly that people are showing up at FedEx Office Print without the putrid plug-in. But seeing as they can't use the service without it, FedEx has to make the offer depicted above or visible online here. That page offers a link to download Flash, which is both a good and a bad idea. The good is that the link goes to the latest version of Flash, which includes years' worth of bug fixes. The bad is that Flash has needed bug fixes for years and a steady drip of newly-detected problems means there's no guarantee the software's woes have ended. Scoring yourself a $5 discount could therefore cost you plenty in future.
Firefox

Firefox for Linux is Now Netflix Compatible (betanews.com) 71

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: For a while, Netflix was not available for traditional Linux-based operating systems, meaning users were unable to enjoy the popular streaming service without booting into Windows. This was due to the company's reliance on Microsoft Silverlight. Since then, Netflix adopted HTML5, and it made Google Chrome and Chromium for Linux capable of playing the videos. Unfortunately, Firefox -- the open source browser choice for many Linux users -- was not compatible. Today this changes, however, as Mozilla's offering is now compatible with Netflix!
Microsoft

WikiLeaks Won't Tell Tech Companies How To Patch CIA Zero-Days Until Demands Are Met (fortune.com) 228

"WikiLeaks has made initial contact with us via secure@microsoft.com," a Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard -- but then things apparently stalled. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Wikileaks this week contacted major tech companies including Apple and Google, and required them to assent to a set of conditions before receiving leaked information about security "zero days" and other surveillance methods in the possession of the Central Intelligence Agency... Wikileaks' demands remain largely unknown, but may include a 90-day deadline for fixing any disclosed security vulnerabilities. According to Motherboard's sources, at least some of the involved companies are still in the process of evaluating the legal ramifications of the conditions.
Julian Assange announced Friday that Mozilla had already received information after agreeing to their "industry standard responsible disclosure plan," then added that "most of these lagging companies have conflicts of interest due to their classified work for U.S. government agencies... such associations limit industry staff with U.S. security clearances from fixing security holes based on leaked information from the CIA." Assange suggested users "may prefer organizations such as Mozilla or European companies that prioritize their users over government contracts. Should these companies continue to drag their feet we will create a league table comparing company responsiveness and government entanglements so users can decided for themselves."
Firefox

Will WebAssembly Replace JavaScript? (medium.com) 235

On Tuesday Firefox 52 became the first browser to support WebAssembly, a new standard "to enable near-native performance for web applications" without a plug-in by pre-compiling code into low-level, machine-ready instructions. Mozilla engineer Lin Clark sees this as an inflection point where the speed of browser-based applications increases dramatically. An anonymous reader quotes David Bryant, the head of platform engineering at Mozilla. This new standard will enable amazing video games and high-performance web apps for things like computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization... Over time, many existing productivity apps (e.g. email, social networks, word processing) and JavaScript frameworks will likely use WebAssembly to significantly reduce load times while simultaneously improving performance while running... developers can integrate WebAssembly libraries for CPU-intensive calculations (e.g. compression, face detection, physics) into existing web apps that use JavaScript for less intensive work... In some ways, WebAssembly changes what it means to be a web developer, as well as the fundamental abilities of the web.
Mozilla celebrated with a demo video of the high-resolution graphics of Zen Garden, and while right now WebAssembly supports compilation from C and C++ (plus some preliminary support for Rust), "We expect that, as WebAssembly continues to evolve, you'll also be able to use it with programming languages often used for mobile apps, like Java, Swift, and C#."
Firefox

Firefox 52 Is The Last Version of Firefox For Windows XP and Vista (mspoweruser.com) 119

Mozilla has confirmed that Firefox 52, the new version of its browser it made available earlier this week, will be the last major version to support two legacy operating systems - Windows XP and Windows Vista. The company said future versions will require Windows users to be on a machine that has at a minimum Windows 7 running on it.
Firefox

Developer Proclaims Death of Cyberfox Web Browser (ghacks.net) 52

In a forum entitled "Cyberfox and its future direction," the lead developer of Cyberfox proclaimed the death of their web browser. The lead developer, Toady, writes: "Over the years the Cyberfox project has grown immensely and its thanks to all the amazing support of our users and has been an amazing couple of years this however has demanded far more of my time causing me to drop allot of projects and passions id like to pursue, the time factor this project has demanded has also take a toll lifestyle wise as have the changes made by Mozilla requiring more and more time to maintain so its come to a point where i recently had to assess the direction of this project and the direction i wish to head for the future. This has being no easy choice and the last few months allot of thinking about the direction of this project has taken place." He continues, "This project has been amazing no one could ask for a better project or community sadly as much as i love this project my heart is no longer fully in it, dreams of pursuing game development were pushed aside and lifestyle steadily declined ultimately slowly coming to this point where changes and choices have to be made ones that will affect this project and the future of what i have spent all these years building." Ghacks Technology News reports: The death of Cyberfox, or more precisely, the announcement of end of life for the web browser may come as a shock to users who run it. It should not be too much of a surprise though for users who keep an eye on the browser world and especially Mozilla and Firefox. Mozilla announced major changes to Firefox, some of which landed already, some are in process, and others are announced for 2017. [Some of the critical changes:] Multi-process Firefox is almost done, plugins are out except for Flash and Firefox ESR, Windows XP and Vista users are switched to Firefox ESR so that the operating systems are supported for eight additional releases, and WebExtensions will replace all other add-on systems of the browser. That's a lot of change, especially for projects that are maintained by a small but dedicated group of developers such as Cyberfox. The author of Cyberfox made the decision to switch the browser's release channel to Firefox 52.0 ESR. This means that Cyberfox will be supported with security updates for the next eight release cycles, but new features that Mozilla introduces in Firefox Stable won't find their way into the browser anymore. UPDATE 3/07/17: We have updated the headline to clarify that Cyberfox, specifically, is the browser that will be coming to an end. We have also added an excerpt from the developer's post. Toady clarified at the end of his post: "The largest factor was lifestyle a nicer way of saying health issues without making it to personalized."
Firefox

Mozilla Firefox 52 Released As ESR Branch, Will Receive Security Updates Until 2018 (softpedia.com) 91

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Back in January, we told you that the development of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 kicked off with the first Beta release and promised to let users send and open tabs from one device to another, among numerous other improvements and new features. Nine beta builds later, Mozilla has pushed today, March 7, the final binary and source packages of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 web browser for all supported platforms, including GNU/Linux, macOS, and Windows. The good news is that Firefox 52.0 is an ESR (Extended Support Release) branch that will be supported until March-April 2018. Prominent features of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 ESR release include support for the emerging WebAssembly standard to boost the performance of Web-based games and apps without relying on plugins, the ability to send and open tabs from one device to another, as well as multi-process for Windows users with touchscreens. With each new Firefox release, Mozilla's developers attempt to offer new ways to improve the security of the widely-used web browser across all supported platforms. Firefox 52.0 ESR implements a "This connection is not secure" warning for non-secure pages that require user logins, along with a new Strict Secure Cookies specification.
Chrome

Microsoft Browser Usage Drops 50% As Chrome Soars (networkworld.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes Network World's report about new statistics from analytics vendor Net Applications: From March 2015 to February 2017, the use of Microsoft's IE and Edge on Windows personal computers plummeted. Two years ago, the browsers were run by 62% of Windows PC owners; last month, the figure had fallen by more than half, to just 27%. Simultaneous with the decline of IE has been the rise of Chrome. The user share of Google's browser -- its share of all browsers on all operating systems -- more than doubled in the last two years, jumping from 25% in March 2015 to 59.5% last month. Along the way, Chrome supplanted IE to become the world's most-used browser...

In the last 24 months, Mozilla's Firefox -- the other major browser alternative to Chrome for macOS users -- has barely budged, losing just two-tenths of a percentage point in user share. [And] in March 2015, an estimated 69% of all Mac owners used Safari to go online. But by last month, that number had dropped to 56%, a drop of 13 percentage points -- representing a decline of nearly a fifth of the share of two years prior.

Mozilla

After 19 Years, DMOZ Will Close, Announces AOL 60

Its volunteer-edited web directory formed the basis for early search offerings from Netscape, AOL, and Google. But 19 years later, there's some bad news. koavf writes: As posted on the DMOZ homepage, the Open Directory Project's web listing will go offline on March 14, 2017. Founded in 1998 as "Gnuhoo", the human-curated directory once powered Google and served as a model for Wikipedia.
A 1998 Slashdot editorial prompted Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation to complain about how "Gnu" was used in the site's name. "We renamed GnuHoo to NewHoo," a blog post later explained, "but then Yahoo objected to the 'Hoo' (and our red letters, exclamation point, and 'comical font')." After being acquired for Netscape's "Open Directory Project," their URL became directory.mozilla.org, which was shortened to DMOZ. Search Engine Land predicts the memory of the Open Directory Project will still be kept alive by the NOODP meta tag.

The site was so old that its hierarchical categories were originally based on the hierarchy of Usenet newsgroups. As it nears its expiration date, do any Slashdot readers have thoughts or memories to share about DMOZ?
Businesses

Mozilla Acquires Pocket and Its More Than 10 Million Users (recode.net) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, is buying Pocket, the read-it-later service, for an undisclosed amount. Pocket, which is described by Mozilla as its first strategic acquisition, will continue to operate as a Mozilla subsidiary. Founder Nate Weiner will continue to run Pocket, along with his team of about 25 people. Pocket, previously known as Read It Later, lets users bookmark articles, videos and other content to read or view later on the web or a mobile device. It's great for things like saving offline copies of web articles to read on plane rides or subway commutes, especially where internet access is sparse. Pocket, which was founded in 2007, has more than 10 million monthly active users, according to a rep. That's not bad, but suggests it's still a fairly niche service, especially as big firms like Facebook and Apple build simple "reading list" features into their platforms.
Debian

Mozilla Thunderbird Finally Makes Its Way Back Into Debian's Repos (softpedia.com) 47

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: A year ago, we told you that, after ten long years, the Debian Project finally found a way to switch their rebranded Iceweasel web browser back to Mozilla Firefox, both the ESR (Extended Support Release) and normal versions, but one question remained: what about the Mozilla Thunderbird email, news, and calendar client? Well, that question has an official answer today, as the Mozilla Thunderbird packages appear to have landed in the Debian repositories as a replacement for Icedove, the rebranded version that Debian Project was forced to use for more than ten years due to trademark issues. "Thunderbird is back in Debian! We also renamed other related packages to use official names, e.g. iceowl-extension -> lightning. For now, we need testers to catch existing issues and things we haven't seen until now," said Christoph Goehre in the mailing list announcement. You can find out how to migrate your Icedove profiles to Thunderbird via Softpedia's report.
Mozilla

Mozilla Will Deprecate XUL Add-ons Before the End of 2017 225

Artem Tashkinov writes: Mozilla has published a plan of add-ons deprecation in future Firefox releases. Firefox 53 will run in multi process mode by default for all users with some exceptions. Most add ons will continue to function, however certain add ons have already ceased to function because they don't expect multi user mode under the hood. Firefox 54-56 will introduce even more changes which will ultimately break even more addons. Firefox 57, which will be preliminarily released on the 28th of Novermber, 2017, will only run WebExtensions: which means no XUL (overlay) add ons, no bootstrapped extensions, no SDK extensions and no Embedded WebExtensions. In other words by this date the chromification of Firefox will have been completed. If you depend on XUL add ons your only choice past this date will be Pale Moon.
Netscape

Mozilla To Drop Support For All NPAPI Plugins In Firefox 52 Except Flash (bleepingcomputer.com) 163

The Netscape Plugins API is "an ancient plugins infrastructure inherited from the old Netscape browser on which Mozilla built Firefox," according to Bleeping Computer. But now an anonymous reader writes: Starting March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox.

These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

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