Firefox now warns when password reuse is particularly dangerous

A simplified new Firefox icon


Mozilla has beefed up Firefox Lockwise, its password management tool, to tell you when you’re making a more bonehead mistake than usual by reusing your passwords. Firefox already warned if a site you’re logging into has suffered a data breach. But in Firefox 76, released Tuesday, the browser now also tells you when you’re using that site’s password on another website and prompts you to change it.

Reusing passwords is convenient for trying to remember them, but it’s dangerously insecure. Once hackers discover passwords through data breaches, they often try those passwords all over the net with a type of attack called credential stuffing. Two-factor authentication eases the problem, though.

Lockwise will also generate and autofill new passwords more smoothly, Mozilla said. That better matches the standard abilities of password managers like LastPass, 1Password and BitWarden.

If you’re not using a password manager, now is a good time to think about making the move. Password managers can be a big help if you’re struggling to use unique, hard-to-guess passwords for dozens or hundreds of online services. Although many people use third-party password managers, browsers and built-in tools like Apple’s iCloud Keychain are getting more sophisticated.

Services tied to one company’s products aren’t as useful if you stray from the fold, though. Chrome’s password sync helps you on Android but not Firefox, and Apple’s service doesn’t work on Windows or Android.

Microsoft’s Edge and Google’s Chrome also warn you about password breach problems that have been discovered.  

For people who haven’t set up a master password in Firefox to protect their passwords, Firefox 76 also will require you to type in your system password before seeing details. That’ll make it harder for roommates or coworkers to snoop.

Also new in Firefox 76:

  • Support for picture-in-picture technology that lets you keep a miniature video window visible even after you move to a different browser tab or program.
  • A technology called Audio Worklets that Mozilla sped into release to help smooth the use of Zoom, videoconferencing software that has surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Broader use of the WebRender technology, which Mozilla says makes Firefox dramatically faster at displaying web pages. WebRender isn’t yet enabled on all PCs, including Linux or MacOS systems, but with Firefox 76 it’s now active on more classes of Windows systems. It’s now switched on for smaller-screen laptops with newer Intel chips.

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