Mozilla Overhauls Firefox Security, Performance

Dennis Faas's picture

Firefox developers say they've now vastly improved the browser, in two ways: First, they've prevented Google search engine users from having their search data exposed to the wrong people.

Second, they've found a way to ensure Firefox uses much less of a computer's memory.

The Google change is available in the newly-released Firefox 14, automatically encrypting all data you send to and from Google during a search.

At present, Firefox can do this only with Google. But Firefox developers hope to make similar arrangements with other search engines later on. (Source:

Google Searches Hidden From Hackers

The idea is to prevent search details from being seen by the wrong people, such as other computer users, or operators of a wireless network.

Even if what you type into Google's search engine is not revealing in itself, your searches could show hackers that you are a high-value target.

There is one limitation to the new search security feature, however: if you search and then click on an advertisement in the results page, the advertiser will still be able to see your original search query.

Google says this transparency is needed to help advertisers figure out how people find them and how to further refine the way they target ads.

In addition to releasing the completed Firefox 14, the developers have also unveiled a beta (or test) version of Firefox 15. This new platform is designed to stop a problem that appears to have stopped many people from using the Firefox browser: hogging computer memory.

In the past, users have often complained that Firefox captures and holds onto a constantly-increasing amount of computer memory, and keeps doing so until the computer effectively grinds to a halt. In many cases, users who experience this problem need to restart Firefox or even reboot the computer itself.

Firefox Memory Problems Caused By Zombie Data

Firefox developers say one of the big sources of these problems is the browser's third-party add-ons, the extra tools intended to help make browsing easier or more productive.

Add-ons can unintentionally cause data describing web pages to be stored in so-called "zombie compartments" of Random Access Memory (RAM), where they can remain even after the user has closed the relevant web page.

Firefox 15 is programmed to "flush out" these "zombie compartments," and so do a much better job of freeing up computer memory that's no longer storing important data.

This regular flushing of useless RAM should prevent Firefox from consuming more and more memory until it causes the computer to slow down. (Source:

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