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Mozilla seeks security researchers to look at alpha code

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Mozilla Corporation wants to get the security community involved in ironing out possible bugs with the next version of Firefox at an earlier stage.

Instead of pointing out security bugs once Firefox 3.0 gets released, Mozilla wants security vendors involved while the software in still a work in progress.

Window Snyder, the "chief security something" or head of security strategy at Mozilla Corporation, explained: "We want to encourage the security community to get involved earlier, at the design and implementation stage. There's a wealth of information we can share."

Mozilla has run a security bug bounty program offering $500 as a thank you to researchers who unearth security bugs since 2004. In addition to this, commercial vendors send in bugs as they are discovered. A team of around 70 volunteers in the Mozilla development community perform triage and work on the development of security fixes.

Reports from Snyder's appearance at the ShmooCon hacker conference in Washington last month suggested Mozilla Corp thought security researchers had too much power in the security remediation process.

Snyder was keen to emphasise that Mozilla wasn't looking for special favours while reiterating the need for security researchers and suppliers to work together for the benefit of the community.

"Vendors need to be responsive and work with researchers," Snyder told El Reg. "If vendors are not responsive I can understand why someone believes their only option is to release details of a vulnerability before there's a patch. Users are better protected if vendors work with researchers.

"The onus is on vendors but security researchers ought to more flexible about how long it might take to get out a patch, which might take more time if application compatibility issues are discovered."

Snyder said Mozilla's work with the security community could be further improved if researchers got involved in the development process of Firefox 3 and subsequent releases of the open source browser. The first alpha version of Mozilla Firefox 3 (Gran Paradiso) was released in December as part of the testing and development process leading up to a release, penciled in for November 2007.

Firefox 3 is to feature an updated layout engine, Gecko 1.9, as well as a revamped system for managing browser bookmarks and history, an improvement originally scheduled for Firefox 2.0 but dropped before the release of the software last October. ®

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