I have just checked in Bug 378216, and wanted to give a quick heads up on it.
What this means is that we are now enforcing a security restriction on all add-ons. To be specific, if an add-on does not provide a secure method of auto-updating then by default Firefox will refuse to install the add-on. If you have add-ons already installed that are insecure in this way then they will be automatically disabled.
The good news is that addons.mozilla.org already uses SSL for it’s updates, so any add-ons you have installed from there will be unaffected by this change. Equally any add-on authors who use SSL on their site, their add-ons will be unaffected. Personally I found 2 of my add-ons were disabled by it, that’s 2 out of nearly 20, so hopefully you won’t see a major impact.
For add-on authors there is an alternate way to provide secure updates without investing in an SSL key involving digital signatures, unfortunately we’ve had to hold off on providing the software to make that possible until the backend changes were complete and reviewed. I hope to have something usable available not too long after M8 is released. Keep an eye on this blog for an update on that.
If you want to see more of the specifics the best place to look is probably at the wiki page. This is all based around the discussions I started on various forums and newsgroups. Hopefully it’s not too much of a surprise to the add-on authors out there, if it is then I apologise, I tried to get the word out as best I could.
One of the main parts of my work for Mozilla at the moment is about securing add-on updates. The spec is now pretty near complete and the implementation is also pretty much complete so hopefully we can start pushing out the necessary tools to add-on authors real soon then land the work shortly after.
Of course it wouldn’t be right for me to push this out without first making my own extensions comply with the new requirements. So today I am rolling out updates to all of them, mostly just changing the update url to an SSL one, though a couple of the extensions (Nightly Tester Tools and /Find Bar/) have some additional updates.
Using SSL really will be the easiest way of hosting secure updates for your extensions and I urge you to use it. Assuming you have a sensible hosting package, adding SSL is really not as expensive as many expect. Godaddy offer SSL certificates for $18 per year (minimum of 2 years) and if you are like me and hosting open source extensions then you can get the first year for free (though that seems to take a few weeks longer than if you pay). It’s also pretty simple to set up assuming you have a decent webhost, Dreamhost just has one form to fill in.
It turns out that the hardest part of getting SSL was fixing the bugs in my CMS since it’s current version had never been used in an SSL environment before 😉
For some time now I’ve promised myself that I’d sort out a simple system to view stats about how many people are using my extensions. The idea is a simple one, on a daily basis Firefox (or whatever app) will ping my site checking for an update for the extension. Counting the number of checks in a day gives you a rough idea of the number of users. You can’t take the numbers literally of course but as ballpark figures go it’s probably not bad.
Finally I have got around to doing it and there have been some interesting results. Not surprisingly Nightly Tester Tools is my most popular extension. However it’s distressing to see how many updated to the broken 1.3b1 and still haven’t gone to 1.3b2. Not surprising of course,Â but it makes me wonder when these 30,000 people or so will update again.
Then of course you get the freaky results. Who’d have though that people on Solaris are using my extensions. And even more bizarre, why has someone installed Tab Sidebar into Thunderbird?
You can peruse the stats yourself if you like, there’s a few different views to play with. Some of the old data isn’t highly accurate, my back-filling script needs some work, and many of the extensions simply aren’t reporting the more detailed information about OS and version so some of those graphs are a little misleading, still there it is.
I understand that AMO are planning on rolling out some stats for add-on authors based on the same update pings that I use. I urge all authors to take a good look at them when they do, you never know what you might find that surprises you and makes you re-evaluate your priorities for your extensions.
Since the disclosure of potential vulnerabilities in the way Firefox (and other Mozilla applications) automatically update your add-ons we have been discussing how to tighten up the system in a way that is hopefully unnoticeable to users and not much extra work for add-on authors.
After a process of listening to authors on the newsgroups, forums and by email we now have a rough proposal of what changes we are looking to make. There’s still a few minor details to be ironed out of course. This is mainly of interest to add-on authors since there is an impact depending on how you host your updates. I’ve started threads on the newsgroup and forums so if you want to discuss the proposal there then that’d be good. I’d prefer it if you didn’t edit the main page of the wiki but feel free to stick small comments onto the discussion page.
We’re looking at the situation of automatic updates for add-ons and whether or not tightening up the security of such updates is a good idea or not (this is one good reason why it could be). After some initial talking I would like to get a little feedback from the add-on authors out there who host their add-ons on their own websites and not on addons.mozilla.org. Are you such a person? If so then please take a few moments to check out the thread in the forums or on the newsgroup and take a few moments to answer my questions.
Of course nothing is a foregone conclusion at this point and you might have noticed that I host my own extensions, not on addons.mozilla.org so I totally have the self-hoster’s needs at heart 🙂