Popular web browser plugins like Flash Player or Java are a prime target of malware and hackers. The core reasons are simple: Lack of centralized updating and little to no protection of the underlying system if the plugin has been compromised.
Changes have been introduced, but only in select browsers at this point of time. Google Chrome for instance uses sandboxing technology and automatic updates to keep users secure. The global updater that other web browsers use on the other hand is not nearly as thorough when it comes to downloading and applying updates as soon as they get released.
Adobe today has released a new Flash preview version for the Windows operating system that contains a new feature for the Firefox web browser.
Flash Player Protected Mode aims to limit the impact of Flash based attacks in Firefox on Windows systems. The new Flash Player feature is compatible with Firefox 4.0+ on Windows Vista or higher. Only a 32-bit version of the Flash Player release is available for download.
The security mode is automatically enabled when users view Flash Player files in the Firefox web browser. Flash contents are executed in a restricted environment that prevents attacks from reaching the operating system or other applications. It is basically a sandbox comparable with Google Chrome's sandboxing technology, Protected Mode in Adobe Reader, and Protected View in Office 2010.
Firefox users running the new version will notice that two processes are started whenever Flash contents are accessed in the web browser with Protected Mode enabled.
Adobe notes that these are the "broker and sandbox" processes which only run if Protected Mode is enabled. These are child processes of the plugin-container.exe process if enabled in the browser. Plugin-Container adds crash protection to the browser.
The Flash Player Protected Mode version for the Firefox browser has known issues. On 64-bit Windows systems for instance, a right-click on Flash contents causes Firefox to hang. Here is the list of known issues.
Adventurous Firefox users find the Flash Player Incubator preview release over at Adobe Labs.
A final release version of the new Flash plugin version moves the Firefox browser security wise closer to Google Chrome.
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