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New Opera Browser Adds Security Features

The makers of the increasingly popular Opera Web browser have released a new version of their software -- Opera 8. The update sports several new security features, including improvements designed to thwart phishing scams.

Opera 8 users will notice that the address field at the top of the browser turns yellow when browsing sites that require digital certificates, such as bank and shopping sites. The browser also will prominently display who owns the digital certificate.

In addition, the new version fixes a security flaw used by phishers to fake, or "spoof," the Web address in the browser's Internet address bar. The problem stemmed from the much-lauded International Domain Name Standard effort to make it possible for Web addresses to use international characters (think Chinese, Arabic and Russian alphabets). In February, security researchers figured out that technology that made non-Roman alphabet addresses could be exploited in nearly every Web browser to fool people into thinking they are on one site when they're actually somewhere else. Such "spoofing" efforts are a favorite of criminals hoping to trick users into entering in credit card or other personal information.

Opera has become a popular browser for many Internet users, but its market share -- less than 2 percent among all Internet users and less than a quarter of one percent of Windows users -- pales in comparison to that of the top two browsers; as of February 2005, roughly 90 percent of all Internet users browsed the Web with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, while another 5.7 percent of users chose Mozilla's Firefox browser, according to an analysis by Websidestory, a Web analytics firm.

Still, this latest Opera release appears to have garnered plenty of interest: It took me three tries to even get Opera's site to load. When it did, I found this message:

Note: Due to heavy traffic on our sites we are encouraging you to download Opera 8 for Windows from the site.

A final note on Opera -- this browser is free, but if you use the free version you'll see small ads in the corner of the browser Window. To do without the advertising, you'll have to pony up $39.

By Brian Krebs  |  April 19, 2005; 3:43 PM ET
Categories:  New Patches  
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Next: RealPlayer Update Fixes Security Glitch

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