By Jon Swartz
June 17, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO -- Window Snyder isn't your average security czar.
As chief of security at Mozilla Foundation, the unconventional
non-profit whose popular Web browser Firefox underwent a major facelift
this week, Snyder cuts an unconventional swath.
For starters, her title is "chief security something-or-other" (yeah,
that's on her business card). It befits her wide-ranging role at
Mozilla, the Web browser developer that relies on the contributions of
thousands of programmers worldwide. The programmers generally work for
free, but Snyder's salary is paid with revenue Mozilla generates through
business partnerships with Google, Amazon.com and others.
Organized cybercrime gangs are more highly focused than ever on taking
control of your computer through browser-based hacks. They've already
turned some 40% of the world's 800 million Internet-connected PCs into
obedient "bots" used to spread spam, harvest your sensitive data and
commit fraud. The bad guys are highly motivated to expand their bot
empires. And their favorite tactic to wrest control of your machine is
by corrupting browser-run applications that enable all of the Web's
coolest functions, like watching videos and social networking.
Because Mozilla's Firefox browser is based on open-source code that is
continually refined by volunteers, it is widely considered by tech
security experts to be the most secure, though by no means impregnable,
browser. Into the virulent dark side of Web 2.0 strolls Snyder, leader
of some 20,000 independent programmers committed to shoring up Firefox's
first line of defenses.
In setting out to elevate Firefox's basic security, Snyder is also
compelling Microsoft and Apple, maker of the Safari browser, to follow
her lead -- or get out of the way.
Snyder's rising star is sure to ascend even more this week, with the
release of Version 3.0 of Firefox on Tuesday. The release is packed with
new features, most notably stiffer security, faster speed and improved
ease of use.
"The fun is in deconstructing where the security holes are," Snyder, 32,
says with a wry smile and knowing laugh.
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