German government urges users to scrap Firefox 3.6

Use another browser until Mozilla ships patch next week, says security agency

Germany's federal computer security agency has recommended that users dump Mozilla's newest Firefox browser until the company patches a critical vulnerability later this month.

The alert was posted last Friday by Buerger-CERT, a project of the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology, which is known by its German initials of BSI. "Buerger-CERT recommends the use of [an] alternative browser until Mozilla has released Firefox version 3.6.2," a translation reads.

Buerger-CERT's warning was prompted by Mozilla's confirmation last Thursday that Firefox 3.6 contains a critical vulnerability that could be used by attackers to hijack a Windows PC.

Mozilla plans to patch Firefox 3.6 on or before March 30.

The vulnerability, which was disclosed by Russian researcher Evgeny Legerov in February, has a checkered history, as Legerov initially refused to provide proof of his exploit claims to Mozilla. Some questioned Legerov's motives for making the announcement, or wondered whether it was a hoax. Mozilla silenced that talk last week when it issued a security advisory that said Legerov had sent them enough information for the company's developers to reproduce the bug.

Germany's BSI has not been shy about recommending that users switch browsers when a vulnerability goes public before a patch is available. Two months ago, the agency called for users to ditch Internet Explorer (IE) after Microsoft acknowledged a zero-day vulnerability in its browser, but before it had shipped an emergency, "out-of-band" patch.

Both Mozilla and Buerger-CERT noted that users can upgrade Firefox now to the beta of version 3.6.2, which includes the patch, by downloading the preview from Mozilla's FTP server.

Users who previously installed a Firefox beta are in a pool that automatically receives notices of new previews before the final code is released. Those users should have received an upgrade offer to Firefox 3.6.2 Beta 3 no later than this past weekend.

Another way Firefox users can protect themselves against potential attacks is by installing NoScript, said Giorgio Maone, the add-on's author, on his blog today.

Mozilla will also patch Firefox 3.0 (with 3.0.19) and Firefox 3.5 (with 3.5.9) on or before March 30. Firefox 3.0.19 will be the final security update version 3.0, which Mozilla launched in mid-2008. Only Firefox 3.6 contains the zero-day vulnerability, however.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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