What’s in the latest Firefox update? 93 improves SmartBlock, starts sponsored search suggestions


Mozilla updated Firefox this week to version 93, which now blocks downloads over insecure connections, improves browser anti-tracking prowess, and introduces Firefox Suggest, the new way the company will try to generate revenue.

The organization’s security engineers also fixed seven vulnerabilities, four marked “High,” Firefox’s second most serious label. The majority of these vulnerabilities were in the “memory security bugs” compartment, a category that covers a wide range of corruption and memory leak flaws.

Firefox 93 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from the Mozilla site. Since Firefox updates in the background, most people only need to launch (or relaunch) the browser to install the latest version. To update manually in Windows, scroll down the menu under the three horizontal bars at the top right, then click the help icon (the question mark in a circle). Choose “About Firefox”. (On macOS, “About Firefox” is under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page or pop-up indicates that the browser is already up to date or shows the upgrade process.

Mozilla last updated Firefox four weeks ago on September 7th.

Iffy downloads blocked

Starting with Firefox 93, the browser will, at least temporarily, block all download attempts over an insecure connection – one using the now obsolete HTTP protocol – even if those downloads are requested from a page secured with HTTPS. (Downloads are often delivered from servers or Internet locations other than the page where they are listed.)

When Firefox recognizes an unsafe download start, it stops data transmission and displays a message on the screen to alert the user, who can continue the download or delete the file, however partial.

Firefox is catching up here, as Google’s Chrome has been putting similar protections in place since early 2020, when the browser began automatically blocking the most dangerous types of files attempting to download over insecure connections. This block has been implemented on several versions of Chrome, but was finalized this year. And unlike Firefox’s new feature, Chrome doesn’t allow a user to continue such downloads, a safer, albeit less convenient, approach.

Paralyzed pages restored by SmartBlock

Firefox 93 also has a SmartBlock, the page tracking blocker technology that debuted in March (with Firefox 87). Qualified as SmartBlock 3.0, the revision improved support for replacing Google Analytics scripts, Mozilla said, and added support for other bits, including Amazon Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM).

Since SmartBlock replaces page components that have been identified as trackers with “local privacy-preserving alternatives” to keep the page running – page breaking is the most common side effect of tracker blocking – the more potential or actual blockers it supports, the less likely the page will not load or function properly.

SmartBlock 3.0, like its predecessor, is activated when the user opens an incognito window or has set Enhanced Tracking Protection on the Strict level.

Mozilla also filled a loophole that some sites exploited to conspire with trackers to avoid the privacy protections that Firefox established in version 87 that removed referring URLs so that revealing information could not be sent. at the destination site. According to Mozilla, the flaw “remains a major privacy issue”.

Mozilla is on another lucrative expedition

Firefox 93 also launched a Mozilla feature called “Firefox Suggest,” which was enabled “for a limited number of users in the United States only,” according to the company.

Firefox Suggest adds additional links to suggestions provided by search engines when the user starts typing in the browser’s address bar. While many categories of suggestions are standard items – gleaned from open bookmarks and tabs, for example – others will raise eyebrows, including contextual suggestions provided, at least in part, by Mozilla partners. . (Partners, so far, include Wikipedia and a company called adMarketplace.) Some of these suggestions – Mozilla didn’t say exactly what percentage, or even generally – will be “sponsored,” in the sense that clicking them will generate the money for Mozilla.

(Mozilla’s revenue comes almost entirely from contracts with search engine makers, including Google, who pay Mozilla to have their engine set as Firefox’s default engine. For years, the company has struggled to diversify. how it generates income, usually unsuccessful.)

It is not known how much revenue Mozilla will derive from these suggestions or what criteria Mozilla and / or the adMarketplace partner will use to select a sponsored suggestion. (Some additional information about Firefox suggests is available here.) However, users can turn off Sponsored Suggestions, as well as the entire Pop-up Suggestions category, from the Settings pane.

The next version, Firefox 94, will be released on November 2.

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