Firefox 51 Improves Security Notifications for Insecure Forms

Mozilla patches 24 security vulnerabilities in Firefox and now alerts users when they attempt to enter information into web forms that are not secure.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla released its first new browser milestone of 2017 on Jan. 24, with the debut of Firefox 51. The new open-source browser release includes enhanced capabilities that will further enable online gaming, as well as security enhancements and patches for 24 different security vulnerabilities.

WebGL2, which is an 3D graphics standard, is now supported in Firefox 51, providing developers with the ability to deliver more robust gaming and visual experiences to users.

"Firefox is the first browser to support the new WebGL 2 standard, which gives developers the ability to utilize compelling 3D graphics that are available for the first time on the web," Nick Nguyen, vice-president of Firefox at Mozilla wrote in a blog post. "Expanding on the solid foundation of WebGL 1, WebGL 2 allows content creators to leverage more modern accelerated rendering features, like transform feedback, expanded texturing functionality, and multisampled rendering support. "

Security is also a focus of the Firefox 51 release, with a new notification approach to help users stay safe. With Firefox 51, users will be alerted when they attempt to enter information into a form on a web page that has not been secured with SSL/TLS (Secure Socket Layers/ Transport Layers Security). The risk is that if a user enters login information into a form on a site that isn't secured, the information can easily be stolen.

"The warning appears when Firefox detects that a non-secure page has a login field," Tanvi Vyas, Tech Lead for Security and Privacy User Experience at Mozilla, told eWEEK. "We are using a variety of heuristics to do that detection."

Firefox 51 will not however be warning users about all non-HTTPS sites, that are not secured with SSL/TLS. Google has publicly stated that it intends to mark all non-HTTPS sites as insecure in an upcoming Chrome browser release.

"We are interested in moving in that direction, but as we've said before, we need to have enough of the web on HTTPS that it doesn't cause warning fatigue," Vyas said.

Not all SSL/TLS certificates are the same either. A web site owner can choose to 'self-sign' a certificate as opposed to getting an SSL/TLS certificate from a validated Certificate Authority (CA). The risk with a self-signed certificate is that there is no form of external validation. Vyas explained that Firefox 51, like its predecessor Firefox 50 which was released in December 2016, provides users with an interstitial warning page, when a site has a self-signed certificate.

"If the user has gone through several clicks to add an exception and trust the self-signed certificate, the connection will proceed, but the icon in the URL bar will be a grey lock with a yellow warning triangle," Vyas explained. "Clicking on the warning will show the message 'You have added a security exception for this site' and give the user the option to remove the exception."

Security Patches

Firefox 51 also provides security patches for 24 different issues, five of which are rated as being critical. The critical issues include a pair of memory safety issues (CVE-2017-5373 and CVE-2017-5374) a memory corruption issue in the Skia graphics library (CVE-2017-5377) and a Use-After-Free (UAF) issue (CVE-2017-5376).

The fifth critical issue identified as CVE-2017-5375, is a code allocation flaw that could have potentially enabled an attacker to bypass Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) on a host operating system.

There is also a high impact flaw (CVE-2017-5389) that is particularly interesting in that it could have enabled an attacker to install a browser add-on without a user's permission.

"WebExtensions could use the mozAddonManager API by modifying the CSP headers on sites with the appropriate permissions and then using host requests to redirect script loads to a malicious site," Mozilla warns in its advisory. "This allows a malicious extension to then install additional extensions without explicit user permission."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and 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.