Category Archives: browser

The Role of Public Policy and Browser Certificates (Oct. 22, D.C.)

If I was in Washington D. C. I would try to make it to this event on Oct. 22 at the New America Foundation.

Center for Information Technology Policy – Emerging Threats to Online Trust: The Role of Public Policy and Browser Certificates

Emerging Threats to Online Trust: The Role of Public Policy and Browser Certificates

Additional relevant background in this post: Web Security Trust Models | Freedom to Tinker

Firefox in Thailand – 2010 update

In preparation for attending and participating in BarCamp Bangkok 4 later this month, I wanted to get a quick update as to the status of Firefox in Thailand.

As of September 2010, Truehits.net, a Thai-based statistics firm has this data for browser market share in Thailand.

Thailand browser market share (truehits.net)

I don’t know enough about Truehits.net’s methodologies, their sample size, etc. but if we take them at face value, the breakdown is as such:

  • 75.16% on Internet Explorer (either 6, 7 or 8 )
  • 15.25% on Firefox (from Mozilla’s internal data, 83% on Firefox 3.6, 13% on Firefox 3.5, yes I know that does not add up to 100%)
  • 6% on Chrome
  • 1.6% on Safari.

Looking at the trends from Truehits.net, Firefox hit 15% share in December of 2009 and then dropped 4% points in 1 month and has slowly gained all of that back in 2010. It’s not clear what could have caused such a drastic drop in share in 1 month other than a change in how the data was taken.

Google Chrome has been growing steadily since launch.  In August of 2010, Google did a Chrome marketing event promoting the Thai version of Chrome, (Google Chrome set to make mark in Thailand, Google Chrome for Thai users) and that may also contribute to Chrome’s growth.

William, Dietrich and I will all be at BarCamp Bangkok 4 and are looking forward to hearing from Firefox users in Thailand as well as those who used to use Firefox and may not use it anymore. Whatever browser you use, we hope to see you there too!

Korean banks starting cross-browser services

Just a quick note to those who are interested in a status update from Korea. Kim Tong-hyung writes in the Korea Times that a number of major Korean banks are moving towards e-banking systems that will be cross-browser compatible vs. what is available today, which is IE.

The short story is that online banking with Firefox or Chrome is still a long-way off, but we can now foresee such a future, whereas before the changes by the Korea Communication Commission (KCC), such a future was impossible to consider.

“There have been complaints from computer users with non-IE browsers and our goal is to provide our Internet banking services to those with any browser,’’ said an IBK [Industrial Bank of Korea] official.

Existing local regulations require all encrypted online communications to be based on electronic signatures that are enabled through public-key infrastructures. And since the fall of Netscape in the early 2000s, Microsoft’s Active-X technology, used on its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browsers, remains the only plug-in tool used to download public-key certificates onto computers.

This prevented users of non-Microsoft browsers such as Firefox and Chrome from banking and purchasing products online. And computer security experts have also claimed that public-key certificates don’t add anything to security beyond a simple password gateway, which make them worse than useless as they create the illusion of safety where there is none.

and

Pressured by the calls to provide more flexibility in Internet security technologies, the Korea Communication Commission (KCC) announced it would allow other verification methods besides public-key certificates for protecting encrypted communication, which motivated companies like Woori Bank to differentiate.

Woori Bank’s new Internet banking system appears to be well-received, with the bank garnering 40,000 new customers just a month into the changes. And with a variety of banks, including IBK, Shinhan, Kookmin and SC First Bank, already providing non-Microsoft online banking services for smartphones, the transition toward an open Internet banking structure appears to be gaining pace.

Online banking wiggles out of Microsoft chokehold (The Korea Times)

Mozilla Indonesia community update

On September 27th, Mitchell Baker visited Jakarta for a number of media interviews and a community gathering organized by Viking Karwur.

This was the first time Mitchell had visited Indonesia for Mozilla, and as such there was high demand to interview her, not only because of the success of Firefox globally, but also because Firefox enjoys a commanding market share in the Indonesian Internet market.

Mitchell started out with an interview at MetroTV with Timothy Marbun. We had originally hoped for Mitchell to get onto MetroTV’s morning news show, Indonesia Now, however, her plane was delayed and she missed the live taping window.

preparations for Mitchell's interview at MetroTV (Jakarta)
Mitchell prepping for the interview with Timothy Marbun of MetroTV.

Mitchell & Timothy Marbun (MetroTV)

Mitchell and Timothy Marbun (MetroTV)

After the TV interview, we traveled to the hotel where the rest of the media interviews were scheduled. Mitchell was interviewed by a number of key media resulting in articles such as:

Wawancara dengan Bos Mozilla Mitchell Baker (Vivanews)

Firefox Siap Hadang Browser Anyar Microsoft (Detik)

Sosok Nyentrik di Balik Kesuksesan Firefox (Detik)

Ponsel Futuristik di Mata Bos Firefox (Detik)

Mozilla Takkan Usung Premium Add-On (Detik)
Pemasukan Kami dari Google” – Yahoo! Indonesia News

Mitchell Baker, Wanita ‘Rubah Api’ Dibalik Kesuksesan Firefox (Okezone)

Di Negara Asalnya Mozilla Firefox Tidak Populer (Okezone)

Mozilla Kembangkan Layanan Jejaring Sosial? (Okezone)

70% Gunakan Firefox, Indonesia Penting bagi Mozilla (Okezone)

Firefox Mobile Siap Menyasar Semua Platform (Okezone)

After the interviews, we moved on to the community gathering. We had almost 170 people registered to attend and we were concerned about overcrowding because the venue was smaller than this number, but due to very heavy rains in Jakarta that evening a number of people who had planned to attend could not. Still we had well over 100 enthusiastic attendees, including a number of old friends from my May trip.

Mozilla Indonesia Community Meetup: Jakarta, Indonesia | Sep 27

Kumi and Mozilla Indonesia Community Meetup

So how on earth did Firefox reach 70% market share in Indonesia?

The community meetup was a chance to make a number of announcements including,
Kumi fox
- the winner of the mascot naming contest; ‘Kumi’ is the Indonesian Firefox mascot’s name.

- the announcement that Mozilla will partner with Pesta Blogger 2010 and Gen Kanai and William Quiviger from Mozilla will participate;

'Kumi' fox mascot, cake & papercraft

Cake made by a friend of the Indonesian Firefox localizer Romi Hardiyanto AND the papercraft ‘Kumi fox’ mascot of the Mozilla Indonesia community.

We will be distributing the papercraft doll via PDF asap from the Mozilla Indonesia community site so you can print and make your own.

Mitchell & Viking

Mitchell and Viking Karwur

DSC_5494

Thank you to Viking and Romi and everyone else who helped make this first official Mozilla event a big success. We’ll be back for PestaBlogger and are actively considering what to do for 2010 and beyond.

Also additional photos by Naif Al’as

Mozilla Indonesia Community Meetup

some of the Mozilla Indonesia community

Finally a copy of my presentation to
View more presentations from Gen Kanai.

Browser nail art

Japanese girl blogger, Mamipeko, has browser icons custom painted onto her nails. The nail artist only knew the IE icon, sadly.

もしかして世界初?痛ネイルアート「ブラウザ」

Tweetup Japan 2010
Photo by Pietro Zuco.

ドンドン!Firefox!!!
Photo by Mamipeko.


via Asiajin and tuttie-cutie.

the Security of Internet Banking in South Korea in 2010

For those of you who have followed my blog, you know that it has been 3 years since I first reported on the fact that Korea does not use SSL for secure transactions over the Interent but instead a PKI mechanism that limits users to the Windows OS and Internet Explorer as a browser. Nothing fundamentally has changed but there are new pressures on the status quo that may break open South Korean for competition in the browser market in the future.

In fact, one of the new pressures on the status quo has been the popularity of the iPhone in South Korea, which wasn’t available officially until late 2009 due to a different Korean software middle-ware requirement, WIPI, which has since been deprecated. With WIPI dead and buried, Apple released the iPhone to great fanfare in the Korean market and Blackberry has also launched in the Korean market.

Another pressure on the status quo was a recent report out from 3 researchers (Hyoungshick Kim, Jun Ho Huh and Ross Anderson) from the University of Oxford’s Computing Laboratory, “On the Security of Internet Banking in South Korea.

South Korean Internet banking systems have a unique way of enforcing security controls. Users are obliged to install proprietary security software – typically an ActiveX plugin that implements a bundle of protection mechanisms in the user’s browser. The banks and their software suppliers claim that this provides trustworthy user platforms. One side-effect is that almost everyone in Korea uses IE rather than other browsers.

We conducted a survey of bank customers who use both Korean and other banking services, and found that the Korean banks’ proprietary mechanisms impose significant usability penalties. Usability here is strongly correlated with compatability: Korean users have become stuck in an isolated backwater, and have not benefited from all the advances in mainstream browser and security technology. The proprietary mechanisms fail to provide a trustworthy platform; what’s more, alternative strategies based on trustworthy computing techniques are quite likely to suffer from the same usability problems. We conclude that transaction authentication may be the least bad of the available options.

The popularity of the iPhone (the press claims 500,000 units sold in the few months since it was released) resurfaced the issue that only Windows and IE can be used to make secure transactions with Korean Internet services. iPhone/Blackberry/Android users in Korea (not to mention Firefox/Opera/Safari/Chrome users) cannot bank online or purchase items online or do any secure transaction with the smartphone browser because Korean services only support the PKI mechanism that only works with Active-X in IE and Windows.

Dr. Keechang Kim of Korea University has been working tirelessly for many years to try to change the status quo in Korea around browsers and the reliance on a PKI mechanism that is tied to one platform. With concern being raised by different parts of the Korean government, including the Korean Communications Commission as well as the Office of the President of Korea, Keechang has gathered a very interesting panel of presentations for April 29th in Seoul.  The panelists will be addressing the (Korean) Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) which is the regulatory body in Korea that is currently mandating the PKI mechanism that is in place today (which requires Active-X, etc.)  Unless the FSS relaxes or changes their regulations, Korean banks cannot offer other mechanisms for Korean users to bank online, etc.  In short, unless the FSS changes their stance, nothing will change in Korea.

Security Issues of Online Banking & Payment in Korea” is an open public meeting (registration recommended) starting at 10 AM on April 29th at COEX Conference Hall E1 and will feature:

  • Bruce Schneier (Chief Security Technology Officer, BT) on “Security: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why”
  • Hyoungshick Kim, Jun Ho Huh (Univ. of Oxford) “What’s the danger of mandating proprietary security solutions?”
  • Lucas Adamski (Dir. Security Engineering, Mozilla) on “Securing Browser Interactions”

Again this meeting is open to the public. Anyone is welcome to attend.

While I have no illusions that one meeting will get the key Korean government entities to do a 180 from their current stance, I do think this will be an important opportunity to bring external, Korean and non-Korean security expertise to Korea to discuss the current state of affairs and show that a PKI-based security architecture is only as secure as the computers that those certificates are used on.  If the computers are compromised, and at least one security services provider, Network Box, claims that S. Korea is the largest source for malware in the world, (Korea reigns as king of malware threats) then there is no way to be sure that the person in control of those personal certificates is the legitimate owner.

The deletion of the requirement for WIPI in Korean mobile phones opened the Korean market to the iPhone and the Blackberry and Android phones from outside of Korea.  Korean users of these new smartphones realized that they could not bank online, buy online, etc. and are now pressuring the Korean government to change the current laws which mandate a PKI-based mechanism that has been implemented with Active-X.  As the popularity of smartphones that cannot make use of the current PKI-based architecture for encryption/authentication grows in Korea, the pressure for the government to change their regulations will only mount.  The key question for Mozilla is whether the Korean government will open up to a point where Firefox and Fennec can be used in the future for secure transactions in Korea.

Thank you to Keechang and everyone in the OpenWeb.or.kr community for your tireless efforts to try to break open the Korean market. Thank you also to Channy Yun who has put aside his own schedule in order to participate and guide Lucas in Seoul.  There is still a long road to walk to an open, competitive market in S. Korea for browsers, but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

US ISP redirects DNS in Firefox toolbar

Disturbing news from the US.

Windstream Communications, a large ISP based on the East Coast of the US, has been caught using DNS redirection of the search results from the Google Toolbar in Firefox. Users using the Google Toolbar in Firefox were served a Windstream search results page, not a Google search results page. I’m not clear how this could even be done but this should never ever happen.

Windstream Hijacking Firefox Google Toolbar Results – Users kick back, Windstream promises correction tonight

Once their customers started complaining, Windstream representatives posted at dslreports.com that

“I won’t go into the technical details, but this was not a desired result to modify the Firefox search field regardless of which search provider is used in the browser.”

Somehow I can’t give this company the benefit of the doubt.

Edit:

Firefox redirects to windstream communications search results when I do a Google search in the search bar. (Mozilla Firefox support forums)

and

How do I remove a web search redirect? (Google Web Search Help Forum)

No choice of browser in South Korea

UPDATE: Marcis has kindly provided a Belorussian translation of this post – НЯМА магчымасці выбіраць браўзар У ПАЎНОЧНАЙ КАРЭІ

As has been in the news this week and mentioned on many Mozilla blogs, the European Commission is working with Microsoft and other browser manufacturers, including Mozilla of course, to launch the web browser ballot in the EC.

To those critics of the browser ballot who would rather the free market be left completely to Adam Smith’s invisible hand, I would present to you the example of South Korea. In short, South Korea is a sad example of a Microsoft monoculture where the course of history and the lack of anti-monopoly oversight have created a nation where every computer user is a Windows user and banking or ecommerce or any secure transaction on the Internet with South Korean entities must be done with Internet Explorer on a Windows OS.

The situation in South Korea has gotten markedly worse since the government, bowing to pressure from the citizens who wanted to use the smart phones that were sold elsewhere in the world, relaxed a rule that previously required a Korea-specific middleware called WIPI, that was never going to be implemented by smart phone makers outside of Korea. Now that the WIPI requirement was gone, manufacturers like RIM and Apple can now sell Blackberries in Korea and iPhones in Korea.

But as I suspected last fall when the iPhone’s official sales in Korea was announced, the browsers in these new smart phones (be it the browser in the iPhone, the Blackberry, or the Android devices that are on sale in Korea) can’t interoperate with the Active-X based security requirements that Korean banks and ecommerce stores require. So it’s not surprising to me at all that the news from Korea since the launch of these smart phones has been universally negative regarding the requirement to use Active-X for secure web transactions in Korea.

Here’s a selection of quotes from 3 recent articles in the Korea Times:

Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture (09-23-2009)

But the land of ubiquitous broadband, feature-happy “smart” phones and ultra-cool computing devices doubles as a crusty regime where Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can’t bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items.The bizarre coexistence of advanced hardware and an outdated user environment is a result of the country’s overreliance on the technology of Microsoft, the U.S. software giant that owns the Korean computing experience like a fat kid does a cookie jar.

It is estimated that around 99 percent of Korean computers run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and a similar rate of Internet users rely on the company’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser to connect to cyberspace.

Mobile Banking Monoculture? 01-10-2010

At the center of the controversy is the [Korean] Financial Supervisory Service’s (FSS) guidelines on the safety of financial services provided on smartphones, which were finalized and announced last week.The new rules can be summarized simply ― all financial transactions on these advanced handsets will be subject to the same security requirements that control online transactions on personal computers.

The problem with this, according to critics, is that the existing legal framework was precisely what allowed Microsoft to establish a virtual monopoly in computer operating systems and Web browsers here, which is now blamed for having computer users stuck with outdated technologies and exposed to larger security risks.

Rigid Regulations Retard Mobile Wallet Era 02-10-2010

In essence, the current law states that all encrypted online communications on computers require the use of electronic signatures based on public-key certificates. And since the fall of Netscape in the early 2000s, Microsoft’s Active-X controls on its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browsers remain as the only plug-in tool to download public-key certificates to computers.

So we can see in Korea today that the lack of choice of web browser (not to mention the lack of choice of computer operating system), indeed the lack of interoperability of Korea’s secure transaction protocol on the web, means that the smart phones of today, that don’t support ActiveX, are useless in Korea for secure transactions. That means if you are an iPhone/Blackberry/Android user in Korea, you cannot bank online with a Korean bank, you cannot trade stocks on the Korean markets, you cannot shop online with a Korean Internet site. You can’t do many of the key things that these smart phones were designed to do.

So when people ask you, “why is the choice of a web browser important?” tell them that in South Korea, people don’t get a choice of what operating system to use or what web browser to use.  After you explain to them that a place without choice is South Korea, ask them again if they’d like to not have a choice and why the choice of a web browser is important.

I hope to have better news from South Korea soon.  Please watch my blog for updates on this issue and other issues facing Mozilla and the open web in Asia.

In the meantime, please be sure to visit Open To Choice.org where Mozilla’s Chair, Mitchell Baker and Mozilla’s CEO, John Lilly, explain why we at Mozilla believe that the choice of browser is a critical right for all Internet users worldwide.

opentochoice.org

Here’s a list of things that the Mozilla community is doing and which we encourage everybody to do:

• Comment on the open letter at opentochoice.org;
• Follow @opentochoice on Twitter;
• Write a post on your blog;
• Use your favorite social network to spread the word;
• Write to bloggers that you know, to local media
• Start a thread in technology and OSS related forums and mailing lists about the browser choice screen;
• Offer to localize the open letter (send an email to contact -at- opentochoice.org)
• Are you participating in local events where you can talk about choice? Do a talk, organize a booth, distribute flyers in the welcome pack, put a banner on the event page;
• Become a browser choice screen watcher: did you see the browser choice screen pop-up on your screen? send us an email, post it on your blog, Tweet about it. Give details (country, time of day, choice of browser).

Engadget – Nokia N900 review

Engadget’s N900 review covers the Mozilla-based browser:

Now, finally, let’s talk about this handset’s real treat, its crown jewel: the glorious browser. The Internet Tablet line has used a fairly capable Mozilla-based browser for ages, but between the latest tweaked code and the N900′s thoroughly freshened internals, it’s gone to an entirely new level. Almost without fail, sites were rendered faithfully (just as you’d expect them to look in Firefox on your desktop) with fully-functional, usable Flash embeds — and it’s fast. Not only is the initial rendering fast, but scrolling around complex pages (Engadget’s always a good example) was effortless; you see the typical grid pattern when you first scroll into a new area, of course, but it fills in with the correct content rapidly. To say we were blown away by the N900′s raw browsing power would be an understatement — in fact, we could realistically see carrying it in addition to another phone for browsing alone, because even in areas where it gives a little ground to the iPhone or Pre in usability, it smacks everyone down in raw power and compatibility. In our line of work where 24 / 7 access to the web is of paramount importance, having the N900 in our pocket when we were away from our laptop was a comforting insurance policy.

Nokia N900 review — Engadget

TEDx Seoul – Korea Internet Galapagos

Changwon Kim, a friend of mine and a talented Internet entrepreneur who sold his blog service startup to Google in 2008 (and currently works at Google Korea), recently did a great presentation on the Korean Internet at TEDx Seoul. Changwon covers the fact that due to early broadband infrastructure and the geography of Korea, Korean companies were leading in innovations around virtual worlds, mobile Internet and social networks way before the global Internet brands that are world-wide today.  However, recently there has been less Korean innovation which has been concerning to technologists and entrepreneurs.

The video from his presentation is now online (in Windows Media) and covers some of the challenges facing the Korean Internet, including two mentions of the Microsoft browser monopoly in Korea.

TEDxSeoul Talks – [Changwon Kim] Korea Internet Galapagos