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Firefox Hacks by Nigel McFarlane

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Hack #18. Digitally Sign Content

Content delivered to Firefox can request special privileges from the user.

Normal Firefox content, whether it's HTML, XHTML or XUL, runs inside a sandbox that stops it from doing anything risky, such as modifying files stored on the local disk. This hack explains how to ask the user for permission to escape the sandbox. If permission is given, the content (usually scripts) can do whatever it likes. You can also arrange matters so that the user is never asked for permission [Hack #19] .

Get Oriented on Security Concepts

The design ideas behind granting permission are trust and identity. If the web page content is to have full control over the browser, there must be trust between the browser user and the content creator—two real, live people. Access to technical features is secondary to this human principle. In the conservative world of security, trust can be assured only if identity can be properly determined. Here are the identity constraints built into Firefox:

  • The browser user always knows whom a content maker requesting trust is.

  • The browser user can always physically track down a content maker that requested trust.

  • The browser user is always free to reject a request for trust.

The Firefox user can drop these constraints if they so choose. When presented with information about a content maker, the user can tell Firefox to trust that content maker in the future. That puts identity information about the content maker in files in the user profile area. ...

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