Bonum Certa Men Certa

Mozilla Has Turned Firefox Into OSPS Consistent With "Attestation" Objectives

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 14, 2024

OSPS is Open Source Proprietary Software (Proprietary in 'Open' Clothing)

Halloween image of witch silhouetted flying in front of full moon with evil pumpkins at base

PART of running this Web site and Gemini capsule involves development and rapid improvement of custom-made software that suits our needs and meets some basic standards. A lot of it is coded in Perl, Python, and Bash. Recently, however, JavaScript too (tr-copy-title-url.xpi).

In the process of doing that we discovered just how locked down Firefox (and its derivatives too) had become. If one develops an extension to Firefox it "has to be installed as a 'temporary extension' because it is not signed at all," as an insider explains. "In Firefox," one must go to "about:debugging#/runtime/this-firefox" and then "Load Temporary Add-on..."

This needs to be done again and again every time Firefox gets (re)started. "The downside to it being unsigned," the insider emphasises, "is that it needs to be reloaded each time the browser is restarted."

This wasn't like that when I developed Firefox extensions nearly 20 years ago. Something has changed, we're not sure when it changed, and this change was likely gradual.

I installed the extension using the steps above and it required the same to be done in LibreWolf, so the artificial restrictions got inherited by the "Libre" 'version'. Great, eh?

So people need to 'sideload' ("sideloading" is a misnomer) their own work, even repeatedly. It cannot be done without so many steps. The insider explains that "restarting Firefox clears the plug-in out of memory, so figuring out how to sign it properly would help with that."

There's an issue with that though. As the insider soon realised, based on the official pages [1, 2], self-signing is forbidden. "As usual for nowadays," the insider says, "self-signing is not allowed. The tedious manual process given initially is the only real option" (for those who update the code frequently and want it to still work).

If one signs or self-signs one's own work, what is the problem? That it might crash everything? There are various ways to undo or remove extensions and "signing" does not in any way assure quality; it makes sense to allow self-signing in many circumstances.

We've attempted to find a workaround, we tried to think more of ways to install the extension fast (without all those laborious steps). We still wonder when these tight restrictions were added and why it happened (or how Mozilla tried to justify/rationalise it).

Mozilla just wants to be in control of everything, even whatever extension the user adds, even if the user himself or herself developed the extension for personal use. This can facilitate censorship of software by Mozilla, as in, you can only do in Firefox what we've approved.

Attestation much? Is this where Mozilla is going? It's a stepping stone towards DRM or at least Tivoisation.

Where was this decision debated? "Gradual steps [were taken] so that the public goes along without complaining," our insider says. As LibreWolf is the same, we can really see how the restrictions get inherited by freer alternatives. Apparently LibreWolf is so secure that the user is wrong to add the user's own code. Or, as the insider puts it: "It's not your computer any more. It's Microsoft via Mozilla via Google. The three collude and conspire to ensure that they have control of the system and not the ostensible owner. Don't look at the DRM hard- coded into Apple's M2, M3, and M4 chips."

I've estimated that it would take ~60 minutes/month (or 12 hours a year) if we need to re-load our extension every time Firefox (or LibreWolf) is restarted. The insider thinks "reloading is an intentional PITA by Mozilla."

"About the only other option would be to make it an official plug-in and downloadable via Mozilla's site. Updating it would be a horrible experience and require lots of time, each update."

Imagine trying to update one's own software and resubmit to Mozilla every small changes for re-signing. Where's the logic in that? What if the code (or extension) isn't of much use to the general public? Or Mozilla turns the coder down? This isn't being done for "security", it's all about control by Mozilla and its masters (GAFAM). One can bet that, like in Windows XP (and later), Mozilla also keeps lists of everything you put in Firefox every time you use it (under the guise of "telemetry" to 'improve' your experience or something).

We've seen similar issues in UEFI 'secure' boot and Certificate Authorities. These facilitate censorship of code or restrictions on site access (i.e. attacks on Freedom of Expression).

The way things work at the moment "is a waste of time," the insider opines. "It is not about "security" as you or I or anyone else thinks of it. It is about control of the machine and wresting that away from the public, without their complaints."

So just remember that Mozilla has turned Firefox into OSPS that refuses to trust you, the user, or obey your will. The word "Firefox" has two Fs, but Mozilla doesn't give a F about your Freedom.

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