Category Archives: Firefox

Firefox 17 released

The latest version of Firefox includes some security improvements designed to help prevent malware infection via out of date versions of Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Specifically, when Firefox tries to display content using those older plugins, it will prompt the user for confirmation.

Version 17 also includes the usual assortment of security, performance and other bug fixes.

Firefox 16.0 pulled due to vulnerability

Update 2012Oct12: Version 16.0.1 of Firefox has just been released. The new version fixes the vulnerability that caused version 16.0 to be pulled from the Firefox download site yesterday. All users are encouraged to upgrade to 16.0.1 as soon as possible.

Firefox 16.0 has been removed from the Mozilla web site due to a new vulnerability. Users who have already upgraded to the new version should either downgrade to version 15.0.1 or exercise extreme caution before visiting any unfamiliar or suspicious web site. The new vulnerability makes it possible for web sites to access information that is normally protected by the browser.

Update 2012Oct12: No exploits using this vulnerability have yet been seen in the wild, but a proof of concept has been published. The POC demonstrates the vulnerability with a few lines of Javascript code that could be embedded on a web site. Now that this POC has been made public, it’s reasonable to assume that similar code will start appearing on hacked and malicious web sites in the very near future.

Firefox 15 released

Another new version of Firefox was announced today. Version 15 includes some new features, like silent updates (which I will immediately disable), and some fixes for long-standing plugin memory use issues.

The Firefox release notes for version 15 have all the changes.

Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a list of previous Firefox versions or the corresponding release notes anywhere on the site. But you can find the release notes for a version by replacing ‘15.0’ with any other version number in this URL:
http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/15.0/releasenotes/.

Flash is crashing most browsers on Windows 7

Since I originally posted this, I learned that Adobe released version 11.3.300.268 to address this problem. It remains to be seen whether the problem has actually been resolved.

The latest version (11.3.300.265) of the ubiquitous Flash plugin found in most web browsers seems to be causing web browsers running on Windows 7 and Vista to crash. A quick search of Google shows that there are reports of this happening in Firefox, Chrome and Opera. Internet Explorer seems unaffected so far, possibly due to the fact that IE uses a separate (ActiveX) version of the Flash player.

Reports indicate that Mozilla is working with Adobe to resolve this problem, and presumably the other browser developers are doing the same. Meanwhile, if you’re running Windows 7 and you watch video on the web, you may run into this problem. As awful as it sounds, the only useful workaround at this point is to switch – temporarily – to Internet Explorer.

Update 2012Jul31:
I’ve been digging through reports from all over the web, and it looks like this problem has actually been going on since as far back as 2009 and Flash 10.0.42.34. Internet Explorer may also be affected, although recent reports seem to exclude IE. Some reports imply that only 64 bit versions of Windows are affected. There are even reports that Windows XP and Mac OSX are affected. But it seems clear that something happened to Flash in version 10 that made it unstable in web browsers on Windows 7 and Vista, and the problem still exists in the most recent version of Flash, 11.3.300.265. It’s possible we’re looking at more than one problem, or one that has morphed somewhat as the Adobe developers try to fix it. An old problem that was previously fixed may have reappeared when Adobe changed something in a later version. Clearly, not all Windows 7 users are affected; if everyone who uses Youtube (the highest-profile Flash video source) on Windows 7 was having this problem, we would have heard more about it by now.

The problem seems to take slightly different forms: it may crash the browser; the plugin itself may crash, leaving the browser running; and in some cases Windows may crash. The web browser may freeze for a few minutes before any crash occurs, and Windows may become unresponsive. In most cases, the problem occurs after two or three minutes of Flash video, but it make take up to fifteen minutes. The most common scenarios involve long Youtube videos and Facebook games (both use Flash).

Here are some of the more interesting problem reports I’ve found:

Possible solutions:

  • Try Internet Explorer. I know, yuck. But it’s only temporary.
  • Uninstall all Flash software, then install Flash 9. This ancient version is apparently the last one that didn’t have these crashing problems. Again, this is temporary. You should upgrade to the latest version once Adobe finally fixes this problem.
  • Adobe recommends uninstalling both Flash and Shockwave, then rebooting your PC, then installing the latest versions of Flash and Shockwave.
  • Disable your anti-virus software. This is not recommended, although it may be useful as a test.
  • Disable all non-Microsoft startup programs using MSCONFIG. If that works, re-enable each startup program one at a time until the problem recurs.
  • Disable hardware acceleration in the Flash settings.
  • Disable “Enable Web Download & Recording for these installed browsers” in RealPlayer (yes, in Realplayer). Some recent Flash installers include a link to a page on the Adobe support site about an incompatibility between Flash and RealPlayer, and this is the recommended solution.
  • Revert to Flash version 10.3.183.20.

Prediction: if Adobe doesn’t figure this out, and Google has heard enough complaints about it, Google might be inclined to switch Youtube from Flash to HTML5. Everyone else in the world will follow Youtube, and then Flash will disappear forever and not be missed.

Update 2012Aug03: Adobe snuck a Flash update past me on July 26. Version 11.3.300.268 attempts to address crashing problems that occur on Windows and Mac computers when playing Flash content. Adobe doesn’t seem to be convinced that the problem is resolved, however: in the version announcement, they ask users for assistance in troubleshooting the problem.

Firefox 14.0.1 – security fixes and secure search

A new version of Firefox was released yesterday: 14.0.1. You can download the new version from the Mozilla site.

This new version contains fixes for several security vulnerabilities, as outlined on the Firefox security advisories page.

The new version also sports several new features, including secure search, which changes the search bar to use secure searching if available. This follows Google’s recent change to use secure search by default for users logged in to Google. Secure browsing is now shown by a lock icon at the far left of the address bar, which replaces the favicon previously shown there.

The official release announcement for version 14.0.1 contains all the details.