Firefox blocks and backtracks on 'insecure' MS add-ons
Plug-in peril confusion
Mozilla disabled two Microsoft developed Firefox add-ons over the weekend after deciding the applications posed a security risk. It has since revised its safety assessment and set about removing the plugins from its blacklist.
The Microsoft Framework 1.1 Assistant FireFox extension and Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation Firefox plugin were both branded as unstable and consigned to application limbo on Friday. Firefox fans who had the plug-ins installed received a pop-up notice explaining that "unstable or insecure add-ons" have been disabled, the Washington Post reports.
A patch for Microsoft .NET published in May installed both the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant and Windows Presentation Foundation plug-ins onto Firefox. This installation happened without the informed consent of Mozilla users and, worse still, was difficult to undo without editing the Windows Registry.
Redmond responded to the issue by publishing a simple tool to remove Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant. Last week concerns emerged the component could be used to launch security attacks against Firefox users.
The potential issue emerged shortly after Microsoft published a cumulative security update for Internet Explorer as part of a bumper patch batch last week. Acting over concerns that Firefox users who were late in applying this patch might be exposed to attack, Mozilla applied changes to neuter both the Windows Presentation and Microsoft Framework 1.1 Assistant plugins.
Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, explained Mozilla's intervention in a blog posting last Friday.
"Because of the difficulties some users have had entirely removing the add-on, and because of the severity of the risk it represents if not disabled, we contacted Microsoft today to indicate that we were looking to disable the extension and plugin for all users via our blocklisting mechanism. Microsoft agreed with the plan, and we put the blocklist entry live immediately."
However, it subsequently emerged that the Microsoft Framework Assistant add-on poses no threat to Firefox users. Mozilla is in the process of removing both components from its blocklist, as explained in Shaver's latest post here. ®
Microsoft should be embarrassed
Microsoft should be embarrassed that somebody else had to come along and fix their work. What's even more disconcerting about the whole thing is that Microsoft never prompted to install their plugins for Firefox, they just installed via MS Update.
Personally, I use Firefox on Linux, so I don't need to worry about all of this extra garbage being installed unless I want it. With Linux I have the freedom to install what I want, not what somebody else wants.
Why Mozillia is wrong
I need one of those plug ins for work. Mozzlia disabled it and now I cant re enable it
""Ralph Jolly wrote: "But why didn't FF warn me after the install?"
Because FF didn' t know that MS had put it there."
What?! Do you really believe that Firefox doesn't know what plugins it is running? How could that even be possible? When FF loads it has to load the pluggins etc. in order to load them it has to know they are there (well, duh!).
What concerns me is that there isn't a simple mechanism built into Firefox to protect against this sort of behaviour. Had I designed it there would be a simple popup when FF loads saying "The following plugins have been installed since you last loaded Firefox. If you did not ask for these plugins click here to disable them." Since many users would consider this intrusive (because they are gits) there could be a simple "Don't warn me about this in future" checkbox.
The very fact that any installer can add stuff onto Firefox gives the lie to Mozilla's claim that their browser is inherently secure.