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Firefox 83 Boosts Security With HTTPS-Only Mode, Zero-Day Fix

Firefox 83 Boosts Security With HTTPS-Only Mode, Zero-Day Fix

Mozilla Firefox 83 was released today with a new feature called ‘HTTPS-Only Mode’ that secures your browsing sessions by rewriting URLs to secure HTTPS versions.

Windows, Mac, and Linux desktop users can upgrade to Firefox 83 by going to Options -> Help -> About Firefox. The browser will automatically check for the new update and install it when available.

With the release of Firefox 83, all other Firefox development branches have also moved up a version bringing Firefox Beta to version 84 and the Nightly builds to version 85.

You can download Firefox 83 from the following links:

If the links above haven’t yet been updated to download Firefox 83, you can manually download it from Mozilla’s FTP release directory.

Below you can find the major changes and improvements in Firefox 83 — if you want to read the full release notes, you can do so here.

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Introducing HTTPS-Only mode

With the release of Firefox 83, Mozilla introduces a new ‘HTTPS-Only mode’ that automatically modifies URLs so that they use a secure HTTPS version.

If HTTPS-Only mode is enabled, Firefox will rewrite any http:// URLs that you are visiting to their secure https:// equivalent, as illustrated below.

HTTPS-Only mode rewriting an URL
HTTPS-Only mode rewriting an URL

If Firefox is cannot connect to the rewritten secure URL, it will display a “Secure Connection Not Available” error, which asks if you would like to continue to the insecure site.

Error message when secure URL doesn’t work

By default, this new feature is disabled in Firefox 83 but can be enabled under Settings Privacy & Security.

HTTPS-Only Mode setting
HTTPS-Only Mode setting

Zero-day Firefox vulnerability fixed

Mozilla has also fixed 21 vulnerabilities in Firefox 83, including a zero-day discovered by Google Project Zero.

In October, Google Project Zero disclosed a zero-day vulnerability in Freetype used in active attacks against Google Chrome. This vulnerability, though, affected any software that utilizes Freetype, including Mozilla Firefox.

With this release, Mozilla has fixed the “CVE-2020-15999: Heap buffer overflow in freetype” vulnerability in Firefox Linux and Android versions.

For a complete list of security updates in Firefox 83, you can visit Mozilla’s security advisories.

Other changes in Firefox 83

While HTTPS-Only mode is the most significant new feature with this release, it is not the only improvement.

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Below is the change log for Firefox 83:

  • Firefox keeps getting faster as a result of significant updates to SpiderMonkey, our JavaScript engine, you will now experience improved page load performance by up to 15%, page responsiveness by up to 12%, and reduced memory usage by up to 8%. We have replaced part of the JavaScript engine that helps to compile and display websites for you, improving security and maintainability of the engine at the same time.
  • Pinch zooming will now be supported for our users with Windows touchscreen devices and touchpads on Mac devices. Firefox users may now use pinch to zoom on touch-capable devices to zoom in and out of webpages.
  • Picture-in-Picture now supports keyboard shortcuts for fast forwarding and rewinding videos: use the arrow keys to move forward and back 15 seconds, along with volume controls. For a list of supported commands see Support Mozilla
  • When you are presenting your screen on a video conference in Firefox, you will see our improved user interface that makes it clearer which devices or displays are being shared.
  • We’ve improved functionality and design for a number of Firefox search features:
    • Selecting a search engine at the bottom of the search panel now enters search mode for that engine, allowing you to see suggestions (if available) for your search terms. The old behavior (immediately performing a search) is available with a shift-click.
    • When Firefox autocompletes the URL of one of your search engines, you can now search with that engine directly in the address bar by selecting the shortcut in the address bar results.
    • We’ve added buttons at the bottom of the search panel to allow you to search your bookmarks, open tabs, and history.
  • Firefox supports AcroForm, which will allow you to fill in, print, and save supported PDF forms and the PDF viewer also has a new fresh look.
  • Our users in India on the English build of Firefox will now see Pocket recommendations in their new tab featuring some of the best stories on the web. If you don’t see them, you can turn on Pocket articles in your new tab by following these steps.
  • For the recently released Apple devices built with Apple Silicon CPUs, you can use Firefox 83 and future releases without any change. This release (83) will support emulation under Apple’s Rosetta 2 that ships with macOS Big Sur. We are working toward Firefox being natively-compiled for these CPUs in a future release.
  • This is a major release for WebRender as we roll out to more Firefox users on Windows 7 and 8 as well as on macOS 10.12 to 10.15.

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