Open source browser maker Mozilla has developed a wide array of secure coding analysis tools as part of its internal development process, and now it's beginning to share those programs with the outside world.
As part of their presentation at the Black Hat 2007 conference in Las Vegas this week, Mozilla leaders detailed their ongoing efforts to lower the number of available vulnerabilities in their increasingly popular Firefox and Mozilla browsers.
The open source advocates also released their first code-scanning utility to the public.
Even more important, Snyder said, the fuzzing tool could prove useful in helping those vendors protect end-users from browser-based malware exploits -- which she described as the shared goal of all browser security developers, regardless of who they work for.
"We wanted to make sure that we could do this in a way that allowed us to help other browser vendors minimize risks," Snyder said. "We have a lot more of these internal tools that we'd also like to share, but we first have to make sure that we can do so in a manner that is safe for users and other software developers."
Mozilla already has plans to release two additional fuzzing tools that can be used for testing HTTP and FTP code before the end of this year, she said. The company will release those fuzzers and a spate of similar technologies as fast as it is able to streamline the systems to the point where they can be applied simply and effectively by other vendors.
The security expert acknowledged that such interaction is exactly what Mozilla was hoping for when it decided to pass out its creation.
Snyder and Shaver also offered a sneak peek at a handful of new security features that the company is building into its next-generation Firefox 3 browser.
Among the tools that will be added in the browser -- which is slated to arrive sometime before the end of 2007 -- will be extended validation certificates, anti-malware and phishing systems, and stronger password protection, the Mozilla leaders said. The browser will also offer a security interface that gives user the ability to manage all of the various protections.
Another new element of Firefox 3 will be the browser's capability to warn away users attempting to visit known malware sites. In some cases, the browser will even block people from accessing dangerous sites altogether, said Shaver.
"Users can't just ignore the warnings," Shaver said. "This feature is not without controversy, of course, but in order to help customers, we need to make them see the messages, so we have to do these types of things."
According to statistics reported in April 2007 by metrics vendor Net Applications, Firefox currently controls 15.1 percent of the global browser market, with Microsoft's Internet Explorer retaining a dominant 78.6 percent share of computer screens.