Mozilla Introduces Firefox Focus Browser for IOS Privacy

Mozilla has released a new mobile browser at the same time its desktop browser for Windows and Linux get patches for 27 security vulnerabilities.

Firefox Focus

There's a new web browser in the Apple AppStore today as Mozilla's Firefox Focus makes its debut as a privacy-focused approach to mobile web browsing. The new browser follows multiple Mozilla efforts in recent years to improve security for both mobile and desktop users and debuts just two days after Firefox 50 for desktop was released.

In December 2015, Mozilla released its Focus by Firefox content blocker for Apple's IOS. With Focus by Firefox, Mozilla brought the Tracking Protection privacy feature that first debuted in Firefox 42, to IOS users.

"Focus by Firefox was our first content blocker that blocks certain types of content in the Safari browser," Nick Nguyen, VP of Firefox Product at Mozilla told eWEEK. "The Firefox Focus Browser is a separate browser with content blocking built-in and turned on by default."

The privacy protection that the Firefox Focus browser provides includes blocking various forms of tracking technologies including cookies, that can be used by websites for advertising and analytics.

While the Firefox Focus browser benefits from the Tracking Protection innovations that Mozilla has built on the desktop, the core rendering engine is different. Since Mozilla first began, it has used its own Gecko engine to power browsers. Nguyen commented that due to Apple's restrictions, all browsers on iOS, including Firefox Focus, are based on WebKit.

The Firefox Focus browser is now an IOS-only product. Nguyen noted that the private browsing mode in Firefox for Android already includes include tracking protection.

The idea for having a privacy focused browser is not a new one at this point in time. Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich now leads a rival browser effort called Brave that also provides protections for users from tracking, as well as ad-blocking capabilities. Nguyen only had positive things to say about Brave.

"We are excited about the potential of the Brave browser," Nguyen said. "The more open source innovation that exist[s] in this space, the more users are served and the more vibrant the open web becomes."

The Firefox Focus browser release comes two days after Mozilla released Firefox 50 on November 15 for desktop and Android users. Nguyen said that since Firefox Focus is a separate application, it is not tied to the Firefox for Android and Desktop release schedule.

Firefox 50

The Firefox 50 release includes a number of incremental feature updates as well as security fixes. In terms of features, Firefox 50 now integrates is own built-in set of emoji for operating systems without native emoji fonts, such Windows 8.0 and earlier versions as well as Linux.

From a security standpoint in Firefox 50, Mozilla is patching for 27 security vulnerabilities of which only three are rated as having critical impact. Two of the critical impact issues (CVE-5290 and CVE-2016-5289) are memory safety vulnerabilities. The other critical vulnerability is CVE-2016-5296 and is identified by Mozilla as a heap buffer-overflow issue.

Among the high impact flaws fixed in Firefox 50 is in an interesting update risk related to Mozilla's software updater.

"The Mozilla Updater can be made to choose an arbitrary target working directory for output files resulting from the update process," Mozilla warns in its advisory for CVE-2016-5294

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.