Nov 152012
 

Firefox came to being after Netscape was usurped by Microsoft Internet Explorer.  The browser wars back in the late 1990s resulted in IE having +90% of the market share.  Fortunately, back in the day Firefox (Phoenix or Firebird before it was known as Firefox) saved the day by providing a much needed alternative to IE in the early 2000s.  Today, there is much more diversity in the browser market.  Much of the progress can be attributed to Firefox providing a viable alternative to IE, and even more impressively, doing so as open source proving the strength of the open source community.

History aside, there are a few things you can do to make your browsing experience more secure and possibly more pleasant while using Firefox.

Don’t Track Me

This feature is hardly a cure all to prevent websites from tracking you.  It does set the stage, though, for a more secure browsing experience.  Go to Options (alt+t will open the Tools menu in case your menu isn’t in view mode) under the Tools menu.  Under the Privacy tab, find the Tracking option and select the option to Tell websites I do not want to be tracked.

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Don’t Accept 3rd Party Cookies

To store cookies only from the website that you’re currently visiting, you’ll want to uncheck the Accept third-party bookies option.  This will prevent advertisers or nefarious sites from causing some problems.  From the same Privacy tab as above, click on the drop down menu under History and choose Use custom settings for history.  Then click off the Accept third-party cookies so that it is unchecked.

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Private Browsing

Private browsing allows you to browse the web while ensuring that nothing from the session is saved.  So if you’d like to conduct online banking, start a Private Browsing session and cookies and form information will not be recorded.  The easiest way to start a Private Browsing session is to hit ctrl+shift+p.  The same key sequence will drop you back out of Private Browsing once you’re done with your online banking.

Plugins

NoScript

Continuing the security theme, this plug-in will block JavaScript, Java and Flash from running when visiting most websites.  This prevents things such as cross-site scripting (XSS attacks) and clickjacking, and has the added benefit of helping your browser run faster.  Of course, for sites where you need JavaScript, Java or Flash to run, you can always add them to a whitelist.  Again, if you do a lot of online banking, this is a must-have.

DNT+

DNT+ (or Do Not Track Plus) is similar to the native Firefox setting that we discussed above, but instead of relying on the honor system, this plug-in takes a more proactive stance by blocking sites known to track the web habits of folks like you and me.

Collusion

Collusion came on my radar when visiting the TED website.  I watched the TEDTalk by Gary Kovacs and decided I wanted to learn more about who’s tracking me and where they’re tracking me.  This plug-in will open your eyes to what’s really happening behind the scenes during your browsing sessions.  You many not sleep well at night after installing this.

RightToClick

Occasionally, when you right click on an item in a webpage, the selected text or photo is blocked by some bit of javascript.  This plug-in gives you back control.

FireFTP & FireSSH

The FireFTP plugin allows you to use Firefox as a very passable FTP client.  Additionally, FireFTP supports both SFTP and SSL. 

The FireSSH plugin allows you to connect to a server running SSH (stating the obvious).  I prefer PuTTY, but this is a nice alternative if you like your tools consolidated into one package.

Firebug

A very cool development tool that lets you edit and debug on the fly.  It covers HTML, CSS, Javascript and others.  I’m not a web developer, but this is one of the most popular and widely used tools out there.  This is highly recommended if you do any type of web development.

DownThemAll

This plug-in replaces the basic Firefox download pane.  It has quite a few options for downloading all content on a webpage.

So there you have it; a few security measures to integrate into Firefox as well as a few plug-ins to make your life a little easier.  Please feel free to add your security tips and favorite plug-ins in the comment section below.

Additional Reading

Firefox hotkeys

http://noscript.net/

http://fireftp.mozdev.org/

http://firessh.mozdev.org/

http://getfirebug.com/

http://www.downthemall.net/