Mozilla previously put third-party and cross-site tracking on notice and now it is finally flipping the switch. Starting with today’s release, Firefox will have its Enhanced Tracking Protection turned on by default. Additionally, it will also be blocking cryptominers by default so that hackers won’t be able to make money off your CPU cycles and battery life. Ironically, it won’t yet do the same for sites that try to track your computer based on certain “fingerprints”.
Browser makers have actually started cracking down on sites that abuse the cookie system in order to keep track of users even after leaving their site or, worse, never visiting in the first place. These third-party tracking cookies are often used by ads to continue seeing where users go to in order to build profiles for targeted marketing.
Firefox already included protection against this kind of tracking but it was something users needed to turn on manually. As of Mozilla’s last tally, only 20% of Firefox users used it, probably because only those knew about it. By putting Enhanced Tracking Protection in Firefox “Standard Mode”, it means that, in theory, 100% of Firefox users will be protected by it. That said, they can also turn off the feature, either wholesale or on a per-site basis, in case certain sites start behaving erratically because of blocked cookies.
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Cross-site third-party tracking may violate users’ privacy but another kind of harmful behavior can even damage users’ computers. Cryptomining exploits users’ CPU in order to, as the name says, mine cryptocurrencies, earning hackers money at the expense of the users’ computer performance and hardware life. Cryptomining protection is also now part of the Standard Mode so that Firefox users don’t even have to know about cryptocurrencies and cryptomining to be protected.
What’s not included in Standard Mode is protection against Fingerprinting, the practice of taking a snapshot of the user’s computer stats and identity so that sites can identify the same computer later on even if it changes IP address. That protection feature is only available in Firefox’s Strict mode but Mozilla says it will also eventually become Standard, too.