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Firefox has users to thank for its new security feature

People asked for a tool that would tell them if their emails had been hacked–and Firefox was happy to oblige.

Firefox has users to thank for its new security feature
[Photo: Leap Design/Unsplash]

Three billion Yahoo email addresses, passwords, and birth dates. One hundred and forty-three million Equifax credit histories. And these are just two of the worst hacks, out of the hundreds of data breaches that happen every year. Yet, unless you find out someone has stolen your identity, it’s hard to know if you’ve been affected. It’s a scary thought, but what can you do about it?

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That’s why today, Mozilla’s browser Firefox is launching a new feature that grew directly out of user feedback. Called Monitor, it’s a service that checks your email address against a database of publicly known data breaches called Have I been Pwned, maintained by the security expert Troy Hunt. That’s something that’s been available for a long time, but Firefox also allows you to sign up to get a report every time there is a new security breach to let you know whether your account has been compromised or not.

[Image: courtesy Mozilla]
Monitor is the result of several months of testing, and came about because users asked for it via a set of user feedback surveys the Firefox team started in 2016. The product development team asked users to vote on ideas to integrate into Firefox Account–the services you get if you decide to log in to Firefox and make an account with Mozilla. The overwhelming favorite? People wanted Firefox to notify them of possible password compromises. It was almost as important to users as Firefox working well with all websites–a given for a browser. Through more testing, the team found that people were willing to create an account just to get access to the proposed feature, which convinced them it would be worthwhile to build.

The feature is part of Firefox’s bigger push to increase its security and privacy features: In August, it announced that the browser would integrate anti-tracking, which strips out any third-party trackers that follow you around the internet, later this year. Launching these tools to help people manage their online lives shows that Mozilla is trying to keep up with what users actually want by listening to them–yet another reason why you should switch to Firefox.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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