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Mozilla security takes axe to redundant code

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Mozilla Corporation has hired a former security strategist from Microsoft as part of its efforts to improve the security of its software, in particular its flagship Firefox web browser software.

Window Snyder (sic), Mozilla's new Chief Security Something, an unusual job description but one not out of keeping for an organisation that used to to be run by someone who rejoiced under the title of Chief Lizard Wrangler, has pledged to trim redundant code in a bid to bolster security.

"We want to reduce the overall risk [to Firefox] by evaluating where there are unused features, and then getting rid of that old code... We want Firefox to have a tighter code base," she told Techworld. Snyder founded security consultancy @stake before joining Microsoft, where she was involved in signing off the code for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003, before leaving to found Matasano Security. She joined Mozilla last week.

Snyder's plans to cut Firefox down to size don't necessarily imply that future versions of the browser will be designed from scratch or that older features will disappear entirely. Features stripped from the general code base might be offered in the form of optional installs. After something of a honeymoon period, Firefox has come under fire form security firms such as Symantec in comparisons of the number of security flaws in Firefox compared to IE.

"Just counting up the bugs is not a good measure of how secure an application is," Snyder said, arguing that the severity of identified bugs needs to be taken into consideration. Mozilla produces patches for security vulnerabilities far more quickly than Redmond can manage, she added.

The next version of Firefox, in common with Microsoft upcoming IE 7 browser, will include anti-phishing technology. Further ahead, Snyder said Mozilla is evaluating the inclusion of memory management, managed code, and improved sandbox technology into the browser.

In related news, Mozilla released a security update for Firefox on Thursday. Firefox 1.5.0.7 contains a number of security and stability updates as explained by Secunia here. ®

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