Friday, December 16, 2005

Safer Browsing

Firefox is safer than Internet Explorer, but it could be better. Here are a couple extensions to do that. Both require Firefox 1.5, but you should be upgrading to that anyway.

Google has just released Safe Browsing, a Firefox extension that will warn you when you are on a suspected phishing or spoofing site. It sounds like it can do some of this based on "advanced algorithms" that look at the page content, but I am not sure how successful that will be. But if you turn on Enhanced Protection, the extension will query Google's blacklist. Even with the blacklist it still missed a clear eBay spoofing site in my test.

Another way to make browsing a little safer is FormFox. When you hover the cursor over a form submit button a tooltip popup will tell you the address the form will be submitted to. And if the form is not being submitted to the same address the page comes from, it will also warn you. It seems to warn sometimes when it shouldn't though, but seeing the submit address is the important part.

Since Google's Enhanced Protection sends the URL you visit to Google for checking, it is a minor privacy issue, but that is why it is not turned on by default. It is no more loss of privacy than if you use a PageRank utility. And I think it is far better to send a little data to Google about your browsing than being tricked into sending your registration data to a scammer. You still have to be careful of course, but any help is better than none. It sounds like Internet Explorer 7 is going to have something similar, but that is still months away.

I hope they keep up on this blacklist better than they have on their tools in the antisplog war. With Microsoft going to have a similar function for IE, and Google being a big backer of Mozilla I would think they will have to keep it up to date. I wonder if this extension will be the basis of similar protection built into Firefox 2.0.

For now, Google's extension is only available for users in the United States. Their FAQ says this is due to licensing issues and they are working on it.

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