Manage Firefox for Android privacy and security

Firefox_androidMozilla Firefox for Android is an excellent third-party browser alternative to Google Chrome. It has actually been rebuilt from the ground up. Mozilla, looked at improving web page rendering and battery drainage and optimising performance to run on lower-powered ARMv6 devices as well as additional support for Android 4.0/4.1 (Jelly Bean). It has also improved iframe (this is often exploited in cross site scripting attacks) security by adding a sandbox attribute.

Last week, Mozilla released information that suggested nearly 20% of Firefox for Android users enabled the Do Not Track (DNT) function against only 8% on desktops. These findings are even more interesting, when you consider the DNT feature is “off” by default! Could the high number enabling DNT be attributed to open source users, to which Mozilla was built on? Possible. Either way this is a very interesting privacy development on mobile.

So how does DNT work? When a user has enabled the DNT feature, websites (that promote ads via links to ad networks) will be told by Firefox that a user would like to opt-out of OBA. The Firefox DNT feature sends a HTTP header (DNT=1) to the ad networks which means the user has initiated the DNT feature. The HTTP header approach requires no additional software – so no add-ons, cookies, extensions etc.

What about the issues? The major issues with this feature are DNT isn’t set as default and it’s up to the ad networks as to whether they action the DNT=1 HTTP header command. I also haven’t seen any visual indication on Firefox as to whether a website supports the DNT feature, so this is a little unclear on how or whether users will use or more importantly understand this feature.

Now let us take a look at how you manage your Firefox Android security and privacy.

Note: Installed latest release (Dec 17th) Firefox for Android from the Google Play Store on a Samsung Galaxy S3 running Android 4.1.1.

How to manage your security and privacy settings:

  • Open Firefox for Android
  • TAP Menu > Settings
  • Scroll down to ‘Privacy & Security’
  • Check > ‘Tell sites not to track me’
  • Make sure ‘Remember Passwords’ remains unchecked
  • Enable ‘User master passwords’ – this protects usernames and passwords that are stored on your device

You also have the option to ‘Clear Private Data’ – this has more options that Google Chrome for Android. All the following options are checked by default. You also have the option to uncheck the options below:

  • Browsing & download history
  • Form & search history
  • Cookies & active logins
  • Saved passwords
  • Browser cache
  • Offline website data
  • Site preferences

There are also a small number of browser add-ons available for Firefox for Android. One I recommend to install would be Adblock Plus which is 100% free. This app blocks those annoying ads that interfere with your everyday browsing. You also can browse other add-ons. To browse add-ons….

Open the browser and scroll down to the bottom and you will see a ‘Browse all Firefox add-ons’ link. Click the link and you will then be taken to the ‘ANDROID ADD-ONS’ selection page.

Safe surfing folks!

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