Category Archives: Mozilla

Firefox 61.0 – security and performance improvements

The latest Firefox release features faster page load times and tab switching, improvements to search provider setup, an improved dark theme, better bookmark syncing, and at least eighteen security fixes.

Settings related to the home page and ‘new tab’ page are now in their own section on Firefox’s Options pages. You can access the new section directly using this URL: about:preferences#home.

The Firefox 61.0 release notes provide additional details.

On most computers, Firefox will update itself. You can encourage it by visiting the About page: click the hamburger button, then select Help > About Firefox.

Firefox 60.0.2

When first published on June 6, the release notes for Firefox 60.0.2 didn’t mention anything about security, but they’ve since been updated to include a reference to a single vulnerability that is fixed in the new version.

The vulnerability fixed in Firefox 60.0.2 is flagged as having both Critical and High impact by Mozilla, and since there are as yet no details in the official vulnerability database for CVE-2018-6126, it’s difficult to know which is correct.

Regardless, if you use Firefox, you should update it as soon as possible. Depending on how it’s configured, Firefox will usually at least let you know that a new version is available within a few hours after it’s published. If not, you can usually trigger an update by clicking the ‘hamburger’ menu icon at the top right, then selecting Help > About.

Firefox 60

Mozilla is making things easier for IT folks with Firefox 60. A new policy engine allows Firefox to be deployed with custom configurations appropriate for business and education environments. This seems likely to increase Firefox’s presense on enterprise desktops.

The New Tab (aka Firefox Home) page gets a bit of an overhaul in Firefox 60, with a responsive layout that should work better with wide screens, saved Pocket pages in the Highlights section, and more reordering options.

The Cookies and Site Data section of Firefox’s Preferences page is now a lot easier to understand: the amount of disk space involved is shown, as are the implications of each option.

Twenty-six security vulnerabilities are fixed in Firefox 60.

Firefox 59 released

Firefox 59 features performance and user interface improvements, as well as numerous other minor changes. At least eighteen security issues are fixed in the new version.

Particularly welcome are new Privacy and Security settings (Menu > Options > Privacy & Security) that will stop websites from asking to send notifications.

Note: Windows 7 users may have trouble using certain Windows accessibility features, such as the on-screen keyboard, when Firefox 59 is installed. Mozilla is working on a fix for this issue.

Update: Firefox 59.0.1 is also now available. It fixes a single security bug.

Firefox 58.0

Earlier this week Mozilla released Firefox 58.0. The new version makes significant improvements its graphics engine and Javascript handling, which should translate into faster page rendering, especially on sites that use a lot of Javascript. Mozilla says we can expect further performance improvements in Firefox in the coming weeks.

At least thirty-two security vulnerabilities are addressed in Firefox 58.0. The release notes for Firefox 58.0 provide additional details.

Note that Firefox 58.0 user profiles are not compatible with earlier versions of Firefox, so if you don’t like 58.0 and decide to downgrade, you’ll have to create a new profile.

Firefox 57.0.4: security fixes for Spectre and Meltdown

The full scope of the recently-discovered Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities is still being determined. It may be that hardware or firmware changes will be necessary to truly remove the danger. However, it’s still possible that operating system and application updates can mitigate the risk sufficiently for most purposes.

Once Microsoft demonstrated that the new timing-based attacks could be used in JavaScript code on a malicious web page to read data from other web sites, the folks at Mozilla decided to make that more difficult to accomplish in Firefox. Since the vulnerabilities are timing-dependent, Mozilla reduced the accuracy of several time sources within Firefox that could be used in Spectre and Meltdown based exploits.

The result is Firefox 57.0.4, released on January 4. It’s difficult to know just how helpful these changes will be, but if you use Firefox, you should install this update.

Firefox 57.0.2

According to the release notes, Firefox 57.0.2 fixes two bugs, neither of which is related to security. And yet there’s also a security advisory for Firefox 57.0.2, which lists two vulnerabilities fixed in the new version.

In the past, Mozilla linked to relevant security advisories on Firefox release notes pages, so presumably someone simply forgot. Fixes for security bugs are a lot more important than fixes for obscure non-security-related bugs, so hopefully this isn’t the new normal for Firefox release notes.

Since this update includes security fixes, it’s a good idea to make sure your Firefox installation is up to date. You can do that by clicking its menu button at the top right (three horizontal lines, sometimes referred to as a ‘hamburger’ button), then choosing Help > About.

Firefox 57: faster and better

I’ve been using Firefox 57 for a few days now, since it was released on November 14. So far, I like what I see. Mozilla is hyping how much faster the browser is, and while it doesn’t feel a lot faster, it is indeed somewhat snappier. Given that Firefox had been getting noticeably sluggish in recent months, this is very welcome.

There are some major changes in Firefox 57: the user interface (UI) has had a major overhaul, using a new set of design guidelines called Photon. Most user interface elements will look familiar, but slightly different. Photon’s main objectives are to improve performance while making the interface consistent across various platforms. You’ll notice new icons throughout (including the main application icon), new positioning of interface elements, new animations, new appearance and behaviour for tabs, cleaned up menus, and new page loading animation.

The ‘new tab’ page has also been improved, and is more customizable. There are some new search engines to choose from, and Google is now the default for search. The on-page search feature now includes an option to highlight all matches on a page.

Numerous other changes in Firefox 57 were made to improve performance, including a new CSS engine called Stylo. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it’s a set of standards used by web developers to define the style and layout of web sites. Stylo is faster than its predecessors because it uses available processing power more sensibly.

The upgrade process for Firefox 57 is no different than for earlier versions, and you don’t need to do anything special. As always, your existing Firefox profile (which contains your settings, bookmarks, login credentials, history, etc.) will be used by the new version. You may notice that your toolbar has been rearranged slightly, but that’s easy to fix using the Customize feature. You may also see blank spacer elements on either side of the address box, but these can be removed.

I noticed one possible problem: the contents of the address bar drop-down list occupy a narrow section in the middle of the list. The width of that section matches the width of the address box itself. This may have been done intentionally, but in my opinion it looks weird and severely limits the displayable length of addresses in the list.

With version 57, Firefox is no longer quite as sensitive about the use of Windows accessibility features. Previously, running the Windows On-Screen Keyboard would trigger Firefox to disable multi-process mode, resulting in reduced performance. That no longer happens in Firefox 57.

Firefox 57 also includes fixes for fifteen security vulnerabilities, so even if you’re not sure about the new user interface, you should really go and ahead and upgrade.

All in all, it’s good news for Firefox fans: Firefox 57 is faster, and has a cleaner, tighter, and more consistent user interface. I don’t see any reason to hold off on upgrading.

Firefox 57 may even be good enough to slow the recent wave of users, fed up with Firefox’s increasing bloat and decreasing performance, and feeling abandoned after Mozilla recently orphaned thousands of useful add-ons, who have been switching to Chrome and other browsers.