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Microsoft Update Quietly Installs Firefox Extension 500

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the guess-its-back dept.
hemantm writes "A routine security update for a Microsoft Windows component installed on tens of millions of computers has quietly installed an extra add-on for an untold number of users surfing the Web with Mozilla's Firefox Web browser."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Update Quietly Installs Firefox Extension

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  • Surprise! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:58AM (#28168225)

    What, you think you know better than MICROSOFT what should be on your machine?

    • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:01AM (#28168285)

      What, you think you know better than MICROSOFT what should be on your machine?

      Well they did release Vista.

      • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:04AM (#28168331) Journal

        What, you think you know better than MICROSOFT what should be on your machine?

        Well they did release Vista.

        Well, they did release Bob.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          What, you think you know better than MICROSOFT what should be on your machine?

          Well they did release Vista.

          Well, they did release Bob.

          ...And Clippy, and Windows 98 ME...

          • Re:Surprise! (Score:4, Informative)

            by danieltdp (1287734) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:46AM (#28168899)
            Just to be precise: windows Me came after windows 98. Those are two different versions.
            • by fishyfool (854019)
              I think the OP's point is like XP was Windows nt5.1 to Windows 2k's nt5.0 (hint, just an update) and that Windows7 is just an update to Windows Vista, that ME was just an update to Windows 98 osr2.5.
              • Re:Surprise! (Score:4, Informative)

                by Thornburg (264444) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:23PM (#28170189)

                I think the OP's point is like XP was Windows nt5.1 to Windows 2k's nt5.0 (hint, just an update) and that Windows7 is just an update to Windows Vista, that ME was just an update to Windows 98 osr2.5.

                You've got your Windows 9x's confused. Win 95 had an "OSR 2.5" (4.00.950C), Win 98 had "SE" (4.10.2222A).

              • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Insightful)

                by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:24PM (#28172975) Journal

                Please do NOT call ME an "update" to Win98SE. WinME was a total train wreck, I know, because I was one of the poor bastards that got an HP Pavilion with the "new" WinME. I could literally start the PC and start a countdown. It would crash within three minutes of getting to the desktop without touching it.

                So please, don't compare Win98SE, which with a little tweaking was actually pretty stable and with a little DOS work or the right tool could be stripped down and rebuilt like a hotrod for gaming. With WinME the best thing you could do was take it out back and put it down like a lame horse. In fact I became friend with the owner of the last shop I worked at by showing him my evil WinME box and asking for help. He just smiled and said "you are gonna hand me $25 for one of those dead boxes in the corner and come back and thank me the next day." Are you nuts? WTF? Why would I want to pay $25 bucks for a dead box and why would I thank you for it? "Because there is probably one or two good parts on it and more importantly it has a Win2K disc and CAL taped to the top. Trust me, you WILL thank me the next day". Sure enough I walked in with my head held down and he just looked up and smiled and said "Well? lets here it" Thank you for selling the dead box with the Win2k disc. I haven't had a single crash since.

                So please, don't compare the two. I still have a Win98SE box i keep for games and it is still stable as long as you don't overtax it with too much multitasking. The only thing WinME was ever good for, even after numerous attempts at tweaking and stripping trying to get it stable, was that its discs kept those nasty rings off my computer table when I was drinking a cold Pepsi. The only way you can consider those two OSes related is the same way I look at WinXP VS WinVista- Win98SE and WinXP was the normal ones while WinME and WinVista was the retarded cousins drooling on themselves that you hope don't make a mess on your carpet.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            ...And Clippy, and Windows 98 ME...

            And Commodore BASIC.

    • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fatray (160258) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:48AM (#28168919)

      Firefox is a competitor to Microsoft. Automatically installing extensions to your competitor's products really is an innovative idea. I wonder if Microsoft has a patent on this?

      This could be misused, though.

      • Re:Surprise! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by should_be_linear (779431) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:04AM (#28169171)
        They sure have patent on breaking other people's SW interacting with their SW (Office formats, MS Java, Grub/Lilo support, ... ) so how about giving them little bit of their own medicine? (Breaking .NET plugin with next Firefox update). I know, I know, not gonna happen...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          They sure have patent on breaking other people's SW interacting with their SW

          Yeah, but it has to have expired by now... "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run".

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ilgaz (86384)

        If Firefox was an evil company of some sort, they would deliberately add some functionality to make browser break when their extension installed from their back and call a good lawyer company. For a software/app at market share of Firefox, I can guarantee millions of dollars in return although I am not a lawyer.

        MS should pray that they don't seem interested in such things and of course, source is open to look/review. E.g. it is not Microsoft.

        If it sounded too childish or tin foil, just check that story http [theregister.co.uk]

      • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:43PM (#28171289)

        Really? How?

        Oh, lemme think... an unethical company could push an insecure framework into the plugin list of a competing browser so they can claim that the average Firefox installation is at least as insecure as the average IE... nah, who'd do that?

    • Re:Surprise! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:59AM (#28169101)
      It's not YOUR PC though, the hardware is but Microsoft own the copy of Windows running on it, you only own a license to use Windows under their terms and conditions. Under those terms Microsoft can do whatever they want with the consent of the owners.....which is themselves.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rvw (755107)

        It's not YOUR PC though, the hardware is but Microsoft own the copy of Windows running on it, you only own a license to use Windows under their terms and conditions. Under those terms Microsoft can do whatever they want with the consent of the owners.....which is themselves.

        Which is complete and utter bullshit!!! They can state whatever they want in their licenses, but I think you are completely wrong, and at least here in Europe national or EU laws will overrule such conditions. They may still own Windows, but they may not do whatever they like on my or any other computer.

        • Re:Surprise! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:06PM (#28170697)
          I don't doubt plenty of EULAs have illegal terms in them, Microsoft are not alone in this practice. Apple seem worse in this regard with "not allowed to install on non-Apple hardware" and "not allowed as a virtual PC" but like any other agreement, until someone has the money to risk fighting it in court it stands. Pystar tried with one of these clauses and was struck down in the US court. Yes there's a lot more going on there than just one clause but huge mega-rich corporations rely on bullying people into just accepting and paying, not fighting.

          Still, if you feel as a loyal citizen to fight Microsoft on the terms of their EULA in the firm knowledge that "right" will win over a huge lobbying / lawyering budget then be my guest, be a good citizen on behalf of all Windows license holders. I wish you the best of luck, and remember to check down the back of the sofa for every last euro, you're gonna need them.

          Windows is built to remove as many user decisions as possible on the idea that users shouldn't have to be techy to use a PC. This means stuff is enabled and allowed by default. Over the years Microsoft have been nailed for that practice, and have gradually put in fixes to many of them, often far too little and far too late. These features are essentially Microsoft making the decision for the user which on the face of it can be seen as training wheels to keep you safe, but in reality gives malware writers an open goal to aim at, and they have done BIG TIME. It's why Windows is a malware magnet and why NO other OS follows Microsoft's design lead.

          Active X enabled on IE by default? Execute code from websites without asking by default? Run as Administrator by default? Install applications without even informing the user by default?

          All of these and more suggest Microsoft want to be the ones making decisions on behalf of their license holders. From a loyal Microsoft point of view that could be that they want to look after you and have your interests at heart, to protect you from the bad people. Like any other corporation, Microsoft don't give a shit about it's license holders, their priorities lie firmly with THEIR interests, with THEM making as much money as possible. This is hampered when you allow others the control you once held, you then have to convince them to do something you could have done on their behalf with no discussion or notification.

          Microsoft rely on the average user being kept dumb. The more the user knows about day to day computing, the more they can make the decisions Microsoft make on their behalf because they understand them, at least on a basic level. Other OS's find ways to get decent defaults but do ask the users for confirmation on stuff, with help options available; taking the approach of trying to educate the user to some degree and giving them control. We have a LONG way to go before this is working perfectly, but at least some are trying.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        Would you please point me to the relevant part of (any) Windows EULA where it reads "we'll do what we want with your system and installed programs"?

        Can't?

        I can't either. So it's not part of the contract and thus nothing I agreed with. And I'm not even going to the legal binding effects of EULAs, considering I can't read them before purchase. So please, can the BS, the legal shit around software is already stinking enough as it is.

    • by artemis67 (93453) on Monday June 01, 2009 @02:30PM (#28172119)

      I'm just thinking that if this update is making Registry changes, then the plug-in is Windows-only, and it means that Firefox users on Windows will now have a different browsing experience than Firefox users of other platforms.

      So, the plug-in accomplishes two things for Microsoft: 1) it promotes the .NET platform to a wider audience, and 2) it promotes Windows as being the superior OS to run Firefox in.

      It's a win-win scenario for Microsoft. Firefox can continue to gain marketshare, but Microsoft will have their tentacles in it, making sure that the adoption of Firefox does not lead to a platform-agnostic world. And it rewards the .NET developers for investing in Microsoft-only technologies.

  • Uhuh (Score:5, Funny)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:58AM (#28168227)
    The new extension allows Firefox to experience the same rich vulnerabilities that IE users have come to expect!
    • Re:Uhuh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ibookdb (1199357) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:25AM (#28169475) Homepage
      Then this is a problem with Firefox, not IE, that it let's plugins be installed without user intervention. At the least it should warn upon next start that "Blah has been installed, do you want to enable it?"
      • Re:Uhuh (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:16PM (#28170113) Journal
        There is no way in which this can be implemented that could not be bypassed by a plugin that collusion from the OS (unless you have a TPM, but that just moves the problem one layer down). An update program designed to update the OS could very easily suppress the warning.
      • Re:Uhuh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pizzach (1011925) <pizzachNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:10PM (#28170729) Homepage

        Then this is a problem with Firefox, not IE, that it let's plugins be installed through the filesystem without user intervention. At the least it should warn upon next start that "Blah has been installed, do you want to enable it?"

        When you have access to the filesystem, and I assume Windows Update runs with full privileges, you can do whatever the hell you want. If MS really wanted to, they could be replacing libraries in the Firefox folder. In many ways this is similar to the argument that if a hacker has physical access to the machine, you're toast.

        Having said that, a number of Linux distros have taken to including certain addons optionally or by default with a Firefox install. I don't really want to see this feature taken away and there is a very real purpose...to make mass management of Firefox installations easier.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KiloByte (825081)

        If you have total control over the computer, you can change files of another program as you wish. It is generally impossible to install an extension without the user's interaction -- unless you mess with Firefox' internal structures, which is what Microsoft here does.

        A question "Blah has been installed, do you want to enable it?" would be wrong in all legitimate cases, since the user already elected to install the thing. A trojan (Windows Update here) can do whatever it wants anyway, if you add a confirma

  • fairly sure that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pvt_Ryan (1102363) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:59AM (#28168239)
    this is old news.. That extension was "added" at least a year ago i think..
    • Re:fairly sure that (Score:5, Informative)

      by Taagehornet (984739) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:03AM (#28168321)
      ...and we've already discussed it here at least once: http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/01/2143218 [slashdot.org]
      • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:20AM (#28168541)

        New Slashdot rule, forget TFA, don't even read the discussion until the 2nd or 3rd time around

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Are you sure that's the same one? There is no mention what extension it is in the summary (no, I didn't RTFS, but I asked a friend to read and summarize it for me). This might be a new one. Like one that makes Firefox use Trident, support ActiveX and use Bing as a default search! Oh noes! Just imagine! It could also include eat babies, remove Linux related stories from Slashdot, add DRM and even be incompatible with the GPL! Don't downplay it! That's serious!

      • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:55PM (#28171459) Homepage Journal

        To save you all the trouble of reading the previous Slashdot discussion, I have summarized it below.

        What does this Firefox extension do?

        1.) It installs a BHO (Browser Helper Object)
        2.) The .Net Framework Assistant also changes the User-Agent string of the Firefox browser, adding "(.NET CLR 3.5.30729)"

        A Browser Helper Object [wikipedia.org] (BHO) is a DLL module designed as a plugin for Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser to provide added functionality.

        "BHO can be used to install additional features or functions that are useful, it can also be exploited [about.com] to install features or functions that are malicious. Some applications, such as the Google or Yahoo toolbars, are examples of good BHO's. But, there are also many examples of BHO's which are used to hijack your Web browser home page, spy on your Internet activities and other malicious actions."

        The author on this site goes on to say: "If you are really concerned about bad BHO's and their affect on the overall security of your computer, you can just switch browsers. BHO's are unique to Microsoft's Internet Explorer and do not impact other Web browser applications such as Firefox."

        Now that Microsoft has infected Firefox with this extension, his advice in the line above is obsolete!

        The following phrases were copied and pasted wholesale, directly from the previous Slashdot discussion [slashdot.org] without attribution (except in one case where I copied the entire text of one submitter's comment).

        The .Net Framework Assistant also changes the User-Agent string of the Firefox browser, adding "(.NET CLR 3.5.30729)", so infected sites can better detect which MS vulnerability to exploit. The .NET framework is not required for Firefox to run. Why would any sane person assume installing a totally unrelated framework would scribble all over Firefox?
        It most definitely IS unexpected, because I was never notified anywhere that a MICROSOFT update would entail installing an addon to a completely NON-Microsoft product.

        How are they allowed to get away with this? Isn't installing BHOs that are not asked for and cannot be uninstalled without hacking pretty much the definition of malware?

        Microsoft modified *another company's products*. What's next? MS is going to start adding updates to VLC player or Utorrent or OpenOffice or WordPerfect?!?!? They shouldn't be messing with non-microsoft products.

        Microsoft is doing this in an update without notifying its users (as far as has been reported) that this update will be modifying third party software with no easy way to prevent or uninstall the change.

        The true question here is not how to uninstall it. The question everyone should be asking is: is it messing with other settings in firefox, reporting back to MS what other extensions I use, monitoring my web traffic, going to break my browser, new security holes?

        Ok Microsoft, you are making automatic changes to software written by other companies without permission or request of the user. I don't care if you say it's just an extension, you didn't ask me!

        The precedent has already been established that the OS can be configured to require the local administrator to give explicit permission for each patch to be applied; the outrage here is that this time, that choice was not offered, and the affected software was neither part of the operating system nor even a Microsoft product.

        For those of you who are assuming it's probably safe (and admittedly, you're probably right), there's another good reason to get rid of it. Microsoft changing your browser string to indicate that this piece of software is installed in your browser. The purpose of this, most likely, is to increase the installed base for this software, and use that as an argument

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602)

          It most definitely IS unexpected, because I was never notified anywhere that a MICROSOFT update would entail installing an addon to a completely NON-Microsoft product.

          Oh? And when you download Adobe Acrobat Reader, were you shocked and surprised and offended when it did its thing to your browser too? Gasp its just a document viewer for PDFs... why is it installing browser addons?

          The addon is relevant to the .net frameworks functionality, and its reasonable to assume people downloading an updating the .net f

    • by Ilgaz (86384) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:02AM (#28169139) Homepage

      So lets speak about what has changed in 1 year? Firefox developers still didn't implement some sort of "If some extension installed behind my back (offline), ask user about it in next launch" functionality. Of course, it is a community/open source project. I would suggest and ask for votes if I was really a Firefox user but I am not.

      It is Microsoft and couple of ignorant developers currently installing local extensions, no malware or serious privacy issue yet. It is just inconvinience but things may change. Firefox is a very major player in browser business now and extensions can be very powerful. Users still run as "super user", even if they weren't, there is no precious data besides users home dir and browsing habits anyway. Understand what I am really afraid of?

      It is simply "check whatever was there in last quit and what was added when I got first launched" functionality. Nothing fancy, nothing fascistic like app store. Oh if they look at source and haxor the functionality? That is the time you do a nice submission to ClamAV/Kaspersky/Symantec/MCafee and they will care for the rest.

  • Wow, well, you know what can I say? I applaud Microsoft for their work in Vista & Windows 7 in separating userspace from kernelspace [wikipedia.org] and then they just go and do something like this:

    Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant 1.0
    Adds ClickOnce support and the ability to report installed .NET framework versions to the web server.

    I do not like the sound of that nor does Annoyances.org as the article notes. I don't like the idea of sending anything about software on my computer to a web server without me knowing about it. I really don't like the sound of ClickOnce either! Isn't this the mentality that has gotten IE users in trouble time and time again?!

    I don't have a problem with the .NET framework ... as long as we're not heading back to blurring the line between what the browser should have access to (certain user space files) and what the browser inadvertently has access to (.NET libraries right in the kernel).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:14AM (#28168473)
      ClickOnce makes it possible to install applications over the web (WoWAceUpdater was an example of this) at the user's demand, it will not automagically download .NET-capable trojans to send back personal information. If you're truly paranoid and wish to disable it, the instructions are pretty simple and can be found by googling.

      On that note, Java's JRE does the exact same thing (adds a firefox extension without the using knowing about it, and reports back version).
    • Adds ClickOnce support and the ability to report installed .NET framework versions to the web server.

      I do not like the sound of that nor does Annoyances.org as the article notes. I don't like the idea of sending anything about software on my computer to a web server without me knowing about it.

      But do you know what your browser is already sending? Mine is sending this:

      User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.0.10) Gecko/2009042316 Firefox/3.0.10 (.NET CLR 3.5.30729)

      "Windows NT 5.1" is Windows XP, and "Gecko" is the HTML/CSS engine used by Firefox, Iceweasel, SeaMonkey, Fennec, etc. Sites can query the versions of various addons that handle an object type, such as Java SE and Flash Player, by embedding such an object. What's so different between querying the .NET Framework version through this add-on and doing so through the Silverlight addon?

    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:19AM (#28168523)

      I don't have a problem with the .NET framework ... as long as we're not heading back to blurring the line between what the browser should have access to (certain user space files) and what the browser inadvertently has access to (.NET libraries right in the kernel).

              I sure hope they come up with a way to run ActiveX in Firefox, I want seamless integration of my botnet...

              Brett

  • How to disable... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:00AM (#28168273)

    Tools > Add-Ons > Plugins > Disable all Microsoft plugins.. and Adobe Acrobat's, QuickTimes & anythiing else that looks suspicious

  • by Jartan (219704) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:02AM (#28168297)

    Several companies have pulled this stunt where they stealh in an addon and disable the uninstall button. Firefox makes this too easy and needs to change how it handles addons which are not installed expressly via the user.

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:10AM (#28168429) Journal

      Hi. If you are running automatic updates, then by default, you have a process running on your computer with administrative privileges. So, you are proposing that Firefox somehow magically blocks that? Even if you find a way to do that, you would piss someone like me off. I am the defacto sysadmin for a small company. If I want auto update to run and update all computers, I do NOT want individual applications vetoing the updates. If I have a problem with an individual update, it is up to me to test the update before pushing it out to client computers. Simple as that.

      It is goofy workarounds and disregarding of conventions that create the big messes.

      • by Captain Hook (923766) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:17AM (#28168505)
        This isn't an update from Firefox's point of view, it's the installation of an add-on which has not be requested by the user, at the very least, Firefox should prompt the user at the next startup if a new add-on has been installed.
      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:23AM (#28168593)

        Hi. If you are running automatic updates, then by default, you have a process running on your computer with administrative privileges. So, you are proposing that Firefox somehow magically blocks that?

        You make this sound impossible, but that's not the case. Firefox doesn't have to automatically load any plug-in in the right folder. It can keep a list of which ones the user has manually approved and only use those. It can keep that list in an encrypted config file if it has to to keep MS from manually editing it. That's not to say Mozilla should adopt this behavior, only that MS having an admin process does not mean they can realistically control the workings of software running.

    • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:53AM (#28168987)

      They aren't 'stealth'ing in an add or nor are they 'disabling' the uninstall button.

      The 'uninstall' button is for user specific addons, not system wide add ons. The uninstall button has never worked for system wide addon installations. It is a feature, and a required one if you expect Firefox to actually get anywhere in the business world. This is done by adding a single registry key and can be done for ANY add on, regardless of who makes it or where it is installed.

      It serves two purposes. First it allows things to install add ons before the browser is installed so that when you later install Firefox it will be aware of existing items and not require you to jump through hoops to get them to work. Second, it allows administrators and other software packages to install something globally, for all users of the host, without requiring each user to manually install the add on and keep it updated.

      I'm sorry that this doesn't fall into your narrow little view of the world, but for the rest of us this sort of thing is a requirement to use Firefox in the business world.

      Finally, there is a very simple solution. Don't install software that does things you don't want it to do. You're an idiot if you think there is anything what so ever that Firefox can do to stop this sort of thing. There isn't. Add ons will ALWAYS be able to install themselves with out notifying you, welcome to open source, EVERYONE can see how to do it, thats a feature of open source. There is nothing Mozilla can do to stop it short of releasing a version with some non-OSS component that can be used to prevent it from happening using digital sigs to verify that only allowed add ons are installed or not load them. And as soon as they do that Slashdot will be ranting and raving about freedom to do whatever the hell it wants.

      You got your software freedom, you wanted everyone else to have the same access to the software as you do. Great, they do, now you get to deal with the consequences of that.

      Its not like user add-ons can't do the EXACT SAME THING. All you need to do is remove write permissions from your own files when you startup and Firefox won't do shit when you tell it to uninstall it except throw an error. Any add on can do that, and Firefox is unlikely to ever 'fix' that problem as its one that Firefox shouldn't be responsible for.

      You can fix the problem on your computer yourself to make sure this doesn't happen with some registry permissions in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Mozilla, take away all write/modify access to this key from everyone after you've installed Firefox. Problem solved. That is where various addons for Mozilla software can be installed globally by a system administrator.

      As for Firefox removing that feature, go ahead and let that happen. Find out how many IT departments suddenly want even less to do with Firefox. I'm sure they'll love you for having it removed when they have to do something retarded like run a login script to roll out extensions rather than just pushing a registry change via group policy.

      The worst part is that this gets modded insightful. This isn't fucking insightful, its ignorant, short sided and shows a complete lack of understanding about whats going on and why.

      Whats worse is ignorant dipshit comments like this end up making me fucking defend Microsoft.

      Get a clue, then start bashing, people with far more intelligence and understanding of this sort of thing work on it, not you, ever consider there MAY be a reason?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Aurisor (932566)

        Add ons will ALWAYS be able to install themselves with out notifying you, welcome to open source

        The fact that firefox is open-source has absolutely nothing to do with the ability of add-ons to install without a user's knowledge. A process running with superuser permissions (like windows update) could alter the state of any program on the machine, whether it be open-source or not.

        As interesting as I found the information you brought to the table about firefox add-on handling, your stream of abuse and speci

  • by causality (777677) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:03AM (#28168309)
    From the fine article:

    A routine security update for a Microsoft Windows component installed on tens of millions of computers has quietly installed an extra add-on for an untold number of users surfing the Web with Mozilla's Firefox Web browser.

    If this was part of a "routine security update" then it's getting easier to understand why there are so many unpatched Windows machines out there. Things like this may seem minor but they really erode the trust that must be present in order to allow a vendor to automatically push system updates. It always did amaze me that whenever major worms come out and infect millions of PCs, they do it using vulnerabilities that have already been patched some time ago. I'm wondering how much this lack of trustworthiness has to do with it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't do windows updates. the last 'tinyXP' install was it and whatever came with it, came with it. period.

      on WGA at all and - again - whatever level its at, its at.

      BUT - no wga is a godsend and having a custom windows that is almost entirely crap-free (as much as we can make it) means we don't have to trust papa MS to give up new updates. the updates started being untrustworthy and doubtful a few years ago (around WGA time, really).

      since the wga days, I stopped doing online updates and did only a 'wal

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AnalPerfume (1356177)
      When Microsoft abuse the concept of "critical" in Windows updates to shove IE8 and WGA onto people's PC's knowing they most likely know nothing about it and have it set to automatically download and apply all critical updates it certainly does erode trust when they find out. On every Windows PC I have to deal with I NEVER allow automatic updates because I don't trust Microsoft to act in the users interests. I do updates manually, and always select "custom" to weed out the shit Microsoft are trying to push.
  • by goldaryn (834427) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:05AM (#28168339) Homepage
    Man, this is so unfair to us Ubuntu users

    Someone please send me the .xpi
  • And yet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by someyob (1062238) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:06AM (#28168353)
    at the same time it was Firefox that quietly allowed it to happen. "I admit that maybe I missed the point", he said as he rushed home to check his Windows machine.
  • Remove it! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:07AM (#28168369) Journal

    http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/article08-600 [annoyances.org]

    Note that Oracle (nee Sun) is also doing this with a Java extension.

  • How to remove (Score:5, Informative)

    by NES HQ (1558029) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:09AM (#28168409)
    In case anyone's wondering:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/brada/archive/2009/02/27/uninstalling-the-clickonce-support-for-firefox.aspx

  • Anecdotal problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:10AM (#28168423) Homepage Journal

    I noticed this on a work machine and read about it last week. Instead of trying to manually remove the extension (the Uninstall button is disabled for this one and only extension) I simply disabled it. Starting that same day, the machine (2.3 Ghz dual core Vista with 4 GB RAM) has begun locking up hard when using Firefox. This doesn't happen with IE or any other software. It locked up 5 times on me with Firefox within 1 hour, and has not locked up at all since then, as I have not used Firefox. It is abundantly clear the problem is related to Firefox, and the only thing I did with Firefox was disable the extension and restart.

    Has anyone else experienced anything like this after disabling the .NET extension? I'm curious how deeply this extension hooks into the OS and if it is capable of freezing up the entire OS. Firefox, on its own, should not be capable of locking up the entire machine.

  • Attention! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:12AM (#28168447)

    Would everyone who voted this old news to the front page kindly line up...thank you.

    *SLAP*

    *SLAP*

    *SLAP*

    *SLAP*

    (etc...)

    Now, don't do it again!

  • by joseprio (923259) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:26AM (#28168635)
    In my system I also have the "Java Quick Starter" (from Sun), and I already removed the Skype add-on.

    As a Firefox extension developer, I've received several complaints about disappearing toolbar buttons, and the answer is always the same: check for the Skype extension that was installed without your consent, and uninstall it. Plus, navigating the browser history was a lot slower, and removing that add-on solved the problem (the Skype extension will scan the page contents to substitute phone numbers by Skype actions).

    This is not limited to Firefox, as this stuff has been happening in Internet Explorer for a long, long time. Still, it would be nice if Firefox would protect its users from non-authorized extensions, warning of what was installed, and providing a easy way to uninstall/disable it.
  • Bug in Firefox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:56AM (#28169053) Homepage

    This allows an extension to be installed:
      - Without notification
      - Without the option to "uninstall"
      - (apparently, from the article) With the ability to install more things to your PC (which I thought Extensions were forbidden to do, and only Plugins [eg: Flash] could do)

    This is clearly a bug in Firefox, and a fix should be released immediately.
    I'd think that firstly Firefox should default to considering the extension "unauthorized" and put up a big scary warning like "Unauthorized extension detected: An external program has installed an extension in a manner which bypasses Firefox's normal security features. It is recommended that you click "uninstall" below, unless you are absolutely sure you know what you are doing"
    But there's no framework in Firefox (that I am aware of) for such an authorized/unauthorized check to be established. (It would mean defaulting everything except this Microsoft extension to "trusted")

    Sounds like a move by Microsoft to say "see! Open source isn't safe! Look what we could do!" once Firefox releases a fix that says "Warning: Unauthorized extension signed by 'Microsoft Corp' detected!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JesseMcDonald (536341)

      This isn't a bug in Firefox. The update process is running as Administrator (if not Local System) and has write access to every file on the system including the Firefox binaries themselves. The updater shouldn't be modifying third-party software, but if that's what Microsoft chooses to do there isn't much third-party developers can do to stop them.

      As for the inability to uninstall the extension, that's standard for extensions installed into the main Firefox application directory. You can only uninstall exte

    • Re:Bug in Firefox (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tokerat (150341) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:03PM (#28169965) Journal

      You do realize that the reason it cannot be uninstalled is because Firefox (securely) does not do privilege escalation and the extension was installed by Windows Update for all users; in which case the extension is located by reading en entry from the registry instead of your own individual Mozilla profile.

      I agree with the statement there should be some type of warning when new plug-ins are installed. OH WAIT, there are warnings. Doesn't the add-on window pop up and say "1 new extension installed"? That's right.

      The REAL fault here is with Microsoft not telling users it was MODIFYING THE SOFTWARE OF ANOTHER VENDOR, but apparently we're STILL going to blame the other vendor (Mozilla), even though we know the real story.

      I sure liked technology more back when only smart people pretended to understand it.

    • This is clearly a bug in Firefox, and a fix should be released immediately. I'd think that firstly Firefox should default to considering the extension "unauthorized" and put up a big scary warning like "Unauthorized extension detected:

      None of this is technically possible. Windows update runs with administrative privileges, and there is nothing firefox, or any application can stop it from doing. Firefox could make it harder for microsoft to add an addon, but it would basically be some kind of drm-style security-by-obscurity race against reverse engineering. This is a social, not a technical problem.

  • Annoying, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Corson (746347) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:56AM (#28169059)
    What is annoying is that it's installed without warnings or questions asked. The good part may be that it provides (or could provide) some functionality and M$ is finally acknowledging the percentage of Firefox users out there.
    • Re:Annoying, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by causality (777677) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:09AM (#28169243)

      What is annoying is that it's installed without warnings or questions asked. The good part may be that it provides (or could provide) some functionality and M$ is finally acknowledging the percentage of Firefox users out there.

      I've seen the way they "acknowledge" competitors before. I like Firefox; that's why I'd prefer they keep ignoring it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:14AM (#28169311)

    i had "windows presentation foundation" installed too, with no details at all what it did or any obvious way of deleting it
    eventually i navigated to
    C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v3.5\Windows Presentation Foundation

    and deleted everything in it and it was all gone

    Mozilla needs to put a stop to this being possible and at least advise the user on the info screen what DLL is responsible and a way to forcibly remove it

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:03PM (#28169959) Homepage Journal

    ...If you're not already using a FOSS operating system, (Linux or FreeBSD) you probably should be.

    Microsoft bet on people not wanting to exercise personal responsibility; that is how they make their money. Windows makes life easier for you by providing you with a scenario where you don't need to take a month or so of your time to customise an open source operating system in order for it to be exactly the way you want it.

    However, understand that like with anything else, an exchange is happening here. You want them to provide you with convenience, to make it easy for you, and to basically do pretty much everything for you. They therefore have every right (because you've given it to them) to screw you in whatever manner they feel like. If you uncompromisingly, unthinkingly give them responsibility for your welfare, don't be surprised when they do something which isn't in your best interests.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't buy a fast food operating system and relinquish responsibility to a corporation in that manner on the one hand, and then expect it is going to be entirely and exclusively beneficial to you on the other.

    It is a law of the universe; there is no free lunch, and in one way or another, you pay for everything.

    • It is a law of the universe; there is no free lunch, and in one way or another, you pay for everything.

      Funny. I thought that paying Microsoft a lot of money for their product was the cost of the "lunch". Just because they can screw people doesn't mean that they are on any sort of moral high ground when they do. Not everybody is adept at reading and understanding the fine print like some of us happen to be. I can't stand the argument that we have nobody to blame but ourselves in a society where it is imp

  • by carbona (119666) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:03PM (#28169963)

    Maybe now Firefox will now run in "IE" compatibility mode so I can "correct" all my CSS 2.0 compliant code to render correctly on Redmond's browser.

  • Gnashing my Teeth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:19PM (#28170125) Homepage

    I'm grinding and gnashing my teeth, but not for the reasons everyone else is.

    OK, I hate to defend Microsoft, but they absolutely stated this Firefox extension was to be installed in the release notes for the patch; http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=CECC62DC-96A7-4657-AF91-6383BA034EAB&displaylang=en

    Also, as I recall this patch was one of those ones that requires you to click "Agree" or somesuch before installation despite setting to automatically download and install updates.

    All of this crap occurs because people don't bother to read release notes any more. They would rather someone else take responsibility for their machines. Well you know what? Microsoft does just that, on a requested and as-needed basis. If you'd rather manage your own patches, then damn it... do it. But do it properly; read the bloody release notes so you know what's going on your machine. If you would rather Microsoft take that responsibility for your machine from you, then do that... but don't bitch when they do something you don't expect because you asked them to just take care of it for you.

    Now, I'm not saying there's not other issues at play here; like installing a patch into a competing product and the potential ethical concerns therein... but can this not be construed as (a) a tacit approval of Firefox as a "valid" third-party browser and (b) an attempt to ensure that the user who requested that Microsoft take charge of their experience get the best experience possible?

    OK, I will say before I get lynched that I don't really like this too much, myself... I don't much appreciate when people do stuff to my machines that I don't like... but I also accept that this is inevitable. If you turn ANY part of your systems management over to a third party, sometimes they're going to do things that you disagree with. This is only even vaguely newsworthy because it doesn't happen that often. At least, not as often as it could.

    If you really don't like it, disable it. And if you don't want this happening again, then start doing your patching the old fashioned way; by downloading the patches by hand and installing them. But don't start crying when they do something unexpected because you didn't read the agreement you agreed to, or read the release notes to understand what the patch is doing.

    This is NOT a failure of Microsoft OR Firefox. This is a failure of the user community who would rather hand off their systems management to a third party, and the "advanced" user community who just blindly install patches and updates with no attempt to research the implications of said update.

    Me? I'm primarily a Mac and Gentoo user... and yes, I understand that on my Mac I'll get updates from Apple that do much the same stuff as this... but I also read the release notes that are handily downloaded with the patches... that way I know what to expect. With Gentoo, I do the same. I use Windows at work, and manage a large network of systems... and yes, this patch was deployed to my client base... and yes, the Firefox users have the .NET plugin... and yes, they can disable it if they like. In our regression testing, the plugin appeared to have little to no impact on the client system other than adding yet another add on to the list.

  • Does NoScript prevent .NET applets from running unless I explicitly trust the site? If so, then no big deal as I would have gladly downloaded this functionality separately had I know it existed (which is what I have to do with Java on all my Windows boxes).

    You also might notice that both Silverlight 2 and Office 2007 add plugins to Firefox, again behavior that is congruent with at least Adobe Acrobat and Flash. And - happy day - their execution is controlled by NoScript, so I don't mind that at all.

    If anything, I'm glad to see Microsoft supporting alternative browses. I'm almost certain that these efforts are driven by anti-trust judgements against them in a number of different jurisdictions, but that's fine with me, too.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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