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Mozilla Launches Plugin Check To Secure Firefox

Browser security suffers when plugins aren't up-to-date. So Mozilla has developed a Web-based plugin update checker.

Mozilla on Tuesday launched a new service called Plugin Check to help Firefox users keep a select number of popular browser plugins up-to-date.

Plugin Check takes the form of a Web page that displays information about a limited number of visitors' plugins, specifically whether the plugins are up-to-date or whether a more recent release is available.

At the moment, the service tracks about 15 plugins, although additional coverage is planned.

When Firefox 3.6 is released -- an event planned for November -- it will include built-in support for plugin update tracking. When visiting a Web page with Firefox 3.6, users will be notified if any if the plugins used by the site have been updated.

The project expands on an initiative launched last month to encourage Firefox users to update outdated versions of Adobe Flash. According to Mozilla, 99% of Firefox users have Flash installed and 75% of those installations are out-of-date.

This represents a significant security threat because Adobe's Flash software, as well as its Acrobat and Acrobat Reader software, is frequently targeted by cybercriminals.

"This is a really important project for us, because old versions of plugins can cause crashes and other stability problems, and can also be a major security risk," said Mozilla's Johnathan Nightingale in a blog post.

Eight of the top 30 vulnerabilities during the first half of 2009 affect Flash, Acrobat or Acrobat Reader software, according to a SANS Institute report issued last month.

And Mozilla claims that 30% of all Firefox crashes come from third-party plugins.

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