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Firefox is working on a feature that will warn users if they visit a site that had a data breach

Firefox data breach prevention.jpg

Breached websites that leak user information like passwords, email addresses, and users names (sometimes even credit card details), are a very real and increasing threat in today's digital society. Firefox is taking a step in the right direction to protect its millions of users - but having said that, the new feature also highlights the 'losing battle' custodians of our most valuable digital information face against hackers.

Firefox teamed up with haveibeenpwned.com to develop a feature that will warn users when they visit a website that has been compromised. It's more of a hindsight warning than active, real-time protection. With haveibeenpwned.com you simply type your email address into its search function, and it will display if your email addresses have ever been hacked or breached.

I bet most Internet users have had their email address compromised. Popular sites like LinkedIn, Kickstarter, Imgur, Uber, My Space, Dropbox, and Disqus have all been breached.

haveibeenpwned.com lists the number of websites and accounts that have been breached:

  • A total of 254 websites
  • 4,823,641,843 user accounts

And those numbers most definitely do not include every website and user. If you're a South African, then don't think that you're safe, in March this year, Ster-Kinekor's old site exposed over 6.7 million users' details. The breach was because of security flaws found in the old version of the website. If you're a gamer, then you're even more exposed. It's old news that Steam has become hacker central (2015 report), and in January this year over 1.5 million ESEA user details was leaked following a hack of its website.

Firefox announced its partnership with haveibeenpwned.com in a blog update. "We’ve started working on integrating haveibeenpwned.com warnings into Firefox, you can follow development here."

So how exactly will the Firefox feature work? For now, you'll receive a pop-up message that will state something like "You've visited a hacked site (insert name)." The feature is still in development and currently aims to reach three goals (as stated on GitHub)

  1. Inform users about data breaches through the Firefox UI - for example, a notification when they visit a site (or maybe when they focus a form on a login page) known to have recently been breached.
  2. Expose documentation/educational information about data breaches in the Firefox UI - for example, a "Learn more" link in the notification mentioned above leading to a support page.
  3. Offer a way for interested users to learn about and opt into a service that notifies them (e.g. via email) when they may be affected by breaches in the future.

It's at least a beginning, and perhaps the feature will evolve into something more pro-active during development.

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