Facebook Container Tab in Firefox

Guard Your Privacy Online

An unfortunate reality to life online today is that some popular sites do not respect your privacy at all. The issue is not the data that you knowingly and freely give them. The issue is that they collect data on you without explicit consent. Oh, sure, you do agree to their “terms of service” that are written in legalese and all the important bits are buried in the depths of it. Facebook is quite possibly one of the worst offenders to stalking you around the internet. It’s one thing to be “watched” when using the Facebook properties as it only makes sense that they are monitoring what you do, what you post and so forth, it’s another thing for them to track you when you go to other sites. That is stalking and although legal, it is not at all ethical. The solution, using Facebook Container Tab in Firefox.

The purpose of this article is to give you a layer of protection against being stalked by Facebook. If this is all the information you need to convince yourself of the benefits. Install Firefox, if you haven’t already been using it then install the Facebook Container tab.

This is the first of what will be many security and privacy tips that I hope average folks can use. Although most of what I write targets Linux and specifically openSUSE Linux; I am straying just a bit. This article also assumes that you have some idea how to install software on your particular operating system.

Installation

If you are running a modern Linux distribution, you likely have Firefox installed by default. There are some unfortunate exceptions of which I cannot recall nor do I care to recall at this time. openSUSE, Ubuntu, along with its flavors, Fedora and MX Linux have it installed by default.

Windows, and MacOS, you will have to navigate here:

https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/

For a Linux user, Firefox should be in the main package repository. Consult your specific distribution if, for some extremely odd reason, you do not have it already installed. You can also use the aforementioned link to get a tar.gz archive and follow those instructions there.

Firefox truly is the best browser you can have on any computer and this Facebook container tab really cements it in for me. To get the add-on, follow this link:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-container/

Why it’s Important

Many sites are collecting as much personal data from you as they can to make a dollar off of you. To be clear, I am not bothered by advertising on websites. What I am bothered by is advertising that stalks you. I also have to acknowledge that this site uses Word Ads so there is something I don’t like going on there (I’ll have a better solution eventually).

One of the worst offenders is Facebook. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you visit a site that has some sort of Facebook tie-in, they will create a kind of “shadow profile” on you and stalk you around the web. For those that have a Facebook account, which includes Instagram, and you want to use it in a safer, more privacy respecting fashion.

The Facebook Container Tab extension on Firefox the best way to use a site that is hostile to your privacy and prevent excessive tracking. It helps you take control and isolate your web activity from Facebook.

What Does it Do?

Facebook Container works by isolating your Facebook identity into a separate container that makes it difficult for Facebook to track your visits to other websites with third-party cookies. In effect, you are only allowing Facebook to track what you do on their web properties, not on the entirety of the Internet.

Facebook Container Add-on

How it works

This extension secures your Facebook tabs. When you close the tab, it deletes your Facebook cookies, and logs you out of Facebook. The next time you navigate to Facebook it will load in a new browser tab (the “Container”). It can be distinguished with another color or in my case, it underlines the tab.

Facebook and Instagram tabs are underlined to identify it being in its own container.

Once the extension is installed, you don’t have to think much of it. Log in and use Facebook normally. The browser will automatically detect if you are going to a Facebook property. Should you click on a non-Facebook link or navigate to a non-Facebook website in the URL bar, these pages will load outside of the container, in effect preventing the stalking and monitoring of Facebook.

Something that has become quite common is seeing a “Facebook Share” buttons on other sites. If you should click on that share, Firefox will load them within the Facebook Container. You should know that using these buttons passes information to Facebook about the website that you shared from.

Facebook share… beware

The Price of Security Costs in Convenience

How you engage other websites outside of Facebook may be impacted by the container tabs. Most of what I view doesn’t have this encumberment but you are not likely me. As is such, some website features will not function as you may expect.

Since you will be logged into Facebook only in the Container, embedded Facebook comments and Like buttons in tabs outside the Facebook Container will not work. This is how Facebook is prevented from associating information about your activity on websites outside of Facebook to your Facebook identity.

If you have used Facebook credentials to log into into In addition, websites. First of all, bad idea. Giving Facebook keys to other accounts is a terrible, terrible idea. That is like throwing your wallet and keys in the front yard with a sign pointing down to detailed instructions about which keys access your home, car and bank account.

If you want a password manager. You can read about Bitwarden here and decide for yourself if you want to use it. If you would like to sign up for a free account, navigate here.

Facebook credentials will generally not work properly with this extension because it is designed to separate Facebook use from use of other websites. This is the cost of convenience but I have provided a much better solution with Bitwarden.

What Facebook Container Does Not Do

This extension does not prevent Facebook from mishandling the data it already has or that you have given to it. Facebook will do what Facebook does. Whatever you do on Facebook, automatically assume that you have permitted all of Facebook and any of its partners to pass around your data like a dish of mashed sweat potatoes at a family dinner. Facebook has access to everything that you do while you are on Facebook.com, or Instagram.com and WhatsApp. This includes Facebook posts, comments, photo uploads, likes or other emotional responses as well as any and all data you share with Facebook connected apps.

Ideally, none of us should use Facebook but that is one of the “city centers” of the Internet. Likely, it is a service you find valuable and you should have tools to limit what data Facebook can obtain. This extension focuses on limiting Facebook tracking, but other ad networks may try to correlate your Facebook activities with your regular browsing.

Additional Notes

This extension alone is not going to prevent every bit of tracking in association with Facebook. This is but one layer or one other line of defense to protect you. In addition to this extension, you can change your Facebook settings, use Private Browsing, enable Tracking Protection, block third-party cookies, use an Ad blocker like uBlock Origin and/or use Firefox Multi-Account Containers extension to further limit tracking. Implementing all of these bits at one go may not work out for you so add them one at a time to see how many conveniences are wroth giving up for a little more security and privacy.

You may wonder if Mozilla collects data from your use of the Facebook Container extension. All they receive are the number of times the extension is installed or removed. If you would like to learn more and its specifics, feel free. It’s open source.

There are already container features that are built in to Firefox. When you enable Facebook Container, you may also see Containers named Personal, Work, Shopping, and Banking while you browse. If you wish to use multiple Containers, you’ll have the best user experience if you install the Firefox Multi-Account Containers extension. More information about containers can be obtained from the Mozilla support site.

What I like

I have, in effect, cut Facebook off from stalking me around the internet. They are not able to monitor my activities outside of Facebook and make advertising recommendations to me based on my interests.

Isolating Facebook in a tab and closing it truly cuts Facebook off from my browser and computer. Think about it. With other solutions, like using Google Chrome, when you “log out” of Facebook or close the tab that had Facebook running in it. There is still code running on your computer and reporting back Facebook on your activity. This happens regardless of whether or not you have a Facebook account. Container tabs allows the freedom of the information without the associated costs in loss of privacy.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t like that this extension isn’t activated by default. Although, I do understand why they would not as the uninformed or oblivious user would think there is something wrong with Firefox and potentially abandon it when some external sites Facebook plugins wouldn’t work properly. Rather than frustrate the user by having it active by default (which would be my choice), they deactivate it and let the informed user protect themselves.

The Android mobile Firefox client does not support this extension and that annoys me quite a bit. I am not sure why the mobile app is crippled. Perhaps it is a different web engine. I know that Firefox uses the WebKit instead of the Gecko rendering engine on iOS but I don’t know about Android for sure.

That’s all I can think of for what I don’t like about it. This is the only way I will use Facebook, on my computer using Firefox. I do not feel comfortable browsing Facebook without it having its healthy boundaries set.

Final Thoughts

Security on the World Wide Web is not as simple as it once was. Many sites, generally from “big tech” are not being very respectful of your privacy and are preying on your ignorance of their actions. They get away with it by creating these massive End User License Agreements (EULAs) that you have to agree to in order to use their site. They don’t make it clear that just by browsing to their site, they are implanting code on your computer’s browser to track and monitor you and what you do, mostly for ad revenue but maybe for other nefarious activity.

Facebook containers will prevent some of that stalking. It will contain the tracking but that is it. This is one of many steps that should be taken when making voyages across the “scary internet”. Prepare yourself and your computer. Use Firefox and enable the Facebook container tabs, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Your identity, privacy and security are quite important in so many ways. This is a no-cost option with a minor penalty in loss of convenience. Check it out, see if it is sustainable. Once you see the benefits of container tabs, you won’t regret the decision to go Firefox.

References

Download Firefox from Mozilla.org
Facebook Container from addons.mozilla.org
Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE
Get Bitwarden Password Manager
Multi-account Containers from addons.mozilla.org
https://github.com/mozilla/contain-facebook
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/containers

Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE

Bitwarden Logo

Password managers are all the rage these days, I guess… I haven’t ever been compelled to try as the password manager I have been using, my shoddy memory, has been working alright for me. The reality is, I have a lot more passwords to remember now and for those passwords I don’t use as frequently, I have to guess at it a few times before I get it… and that is just not a good look.

I have heard rave reviews about several different password manager solutions, waited until I heard more about them and was scared off but recently the rumble of Bitwarden, an open source, free but with a premium paid option came to my awareness. The option to roll your own is a huge deal for me, even if I don’t actually ever roll my own server,

Installation

Bitwarden has several options for installation. I selected to download the AppImage. It should be noted that Your organization my vary but I have a designated AppImage folder for all my AppImages. Once you download it, make sure it is executable. Using Dolphin or your favorite file manager, access the properties and make it executable.

It should be noted that you can download Bitwarden for Windows and Mac OS as well. Not that those mater as much. There is are Deb, RPM and Snap options as well, if you so choose but it should be noted that Deb and RPM don’t have the ability to auto update.

I installed the Firefox Extension so that I could use Bitwarden in a more “seemless” fashion. If I could install Bitwarden on Falkon, I would but at this time, I am not sure how that would be accomplished. Supposedly there is some QML thing in the works but at this time, it is not obvious to me.

It should be noted that Firefox gives you a couple ways to use it. There is a side bar and a drop-down tool. I prefer the drop-down tool as the sidebar tool isn’t as easily turned on and off.

Features

The most commonly used method of using a password manager is automatically through a plugin on a browser. From the different sites I tested it out, it works well. I have tried it on a few sites and when I had input the password I was asked if I wanted Bitwarden to store the login information. Upon returning to that site it did indeed work as expected.

Bitwarden-02-Firefox Plugin.png

An interesting bonus is that you can add any number of notes to a saved password. You could perhaps put the other related notes about your password, or maybe not even have your password at all but a series of hints about your password if you are so paranoid.

Manual Password entry since I often use Falkon instead of Firefox or Chrome and there is not a Bitwarden browser extension available, I will use the Bitwarden in the stand alone mode and do a manual copy and paste into the browser. Although this takes a bit longer to use it’s better than nothing.

An interesting feature built into Bitwarden is a Password Generator. This allows you to generate a random password based on a few factors you set. I am not sure that I would use this feature as it would be me dependent on Bitwarden or some kind of index of passwords to keep things straight.

Bitwarden-02-Password Generator

An interesting feature I think I just may consider using is Identity Entry. I often have to go chasing around for my License or passport number for something but I could potentially put all this information here instead of just some text file on my drive.

Bitwarden-04-Identity.png

You can use Bitwarden for a a place to store all your credit card information. I suppose this could be a better way to store your credit card information as opposed to individual sites. You will have to ask yourself what you trust more, merchant’s web site or an encrypted vault. I think I know which one I trust more.

Another interesting feature in Bitwarden is Secure Notes. I am not exactly sure the intended purpose but I thought I would play around with it anyway. I don’t know if I would use it for my grocery list… not anything real secret about buying ground beef

Bitwarden-05-Secret Note.png

The last area I wanted to look at was not a feature but how much memory does the application use. I believe that the stand alone application is an electron based application and after a few tests of running it and shutting it down, the memory usage varied between 282 MiB and 334 MiB. Depending on how much you value your security will dictate if that amount of overhead is worth it to you. Personally, I think it is worth it on my primary system to have at the ready.

What I Like

The user interface is intuitive, you don’t have to spend any time going through manuals or researching how to instructions on utilizing Bitwarden. It is truly modern and straight forward.

It has a dark theme that integrates very nicely into my desktop’s Breeze Dark theme. It’s not exact, but close enough to not annoy me. It would be nice to have it match exactly but I am not going to be too picky.

A feature I didn’t know I would need but am glad is there is the ability to make folders for your different passwords or notes. The idea here is, you could keep a folder of all your financial passwords, your work password and different hobbies. A nice separation and it keeps things tidy.

Another great feature that I didn’t know I wanted is the ability to put notes with the password information. I can see me using this as such that there are some institutions I log into has additional bits of information outside of your password like your hobbies, your first car, etc. Those answers could very easily be added below in a notes section. This is a pretty fantastic feature, really as you can add all kinds of useful bits of information about the site in a convenient, “secure” container.

Updates seem to be automatic with the AppImage, I was surprised as can be about it too. First time I’ve ever seen an AppImage update itself.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t have a way to integrate Bitwarden into my primary browser of choice, but I really didn’t expect it. It does mean that if I am going to use Bitwarded, integrated into a browser, I will have to use Firefox or possibly Chrome / Chromium.

The memory usage does seem a bit on the high side but it is not a “strain” on my main system, it does make me think twice about using it on low specification systems.

Final Thoughts

After using this application for some time, I have decided that I am going to use this for managing my passwords. It is easy enough to use and the features I require are not that complex. I am also signing up for the Premium version, not because I need the premium features but because I want to support the project and feel good about using it.

Bitwarden works very well within openSUSE using the AppImage. That AppImage will also auto update which was a surprise to me. There is an RPM download for openSUSE from Bitwarden but does not have an Auto update ability… which does seem puzzling but whatever. It is also available for the other operating systems I don’t really care about.

There are many opinions about what is the best security practice, a mix of alphabetic characters with numbers and symbols or using a string of nonsensical words strung together with a smattering of numbers and symbols. Regardless of what your assessment is of “best practice” using Bitwarden is certainly a widely accepted method of storing and maintaining passwords and identities that has increased security yet remains accessible.

Further Reading

https://bitwarden.com/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

Data Back Up | Better to Prevent than to Regret

Backup-02Backing up data is extremely important. That is, assuming you value your data. Many of us have pictures, videos and documents on our computer. The reality is, all machines will fail, everything gets old and stops working, eventually. Most notably, the Hard Disk Drives and Solid State Drives have a limited lifespan before they cease functioning.

Here is some advice to avoid that white-hot sweaty feeling from a black screen when you turn on your computer.

Back up your data!

Beyond hardware failure, there have been a series of recent ransomware attacks against individuals, businesses and government organizations. One particular bit of ransomware is called WannaCry. Presumably because if you are affected you “wanna cry.” It essentially encrypts all your data and leaves a message that tells you you can have your data back if you pay a ransom. This can be avoided entirely by doing regular offline backups.

Backing up your data is something that you will hear frequently but what do you use to back up your data? Drag and drop the contents of your home directory onto an external drive? That will fill up a drive pretty quick, and isn’t sustainable for the long term. You can pay for storage and sync your data up to “the cloud”, but that can get expensive if you have a lot of data. It also runs the risk of being compromised as well as it just replicates the contents of your data. I have been doing an Rsync command in the terminal but unless if I know that I have been compromised, it could overwrite my good data with bad data.

You Only Need Two Things

1st Item | External Hard Drive

WD.png
Seriously, under $60 will get you started.

The tools I recommend to get you started is some sort of high capacity external mass storage drive. Something like 1 TB or better. They are not expensive, especially if you compare the cost of a new drive to the cost of data recovery. Then you need to get the software. There are lots of great tools out there but rather than search forever for the best tool possible, start here and see if it works for you. Move on if needed and try something else but complete that first backup. Whatever drive you choose to use, ensure that is ALL that drive does. You plug it in, do your backup, unplug it and safely store it.

2nd Item | Software

I am not targeting Windows or Mac users but the fact of the matter is, most of the people I know are NOT on Linux (because they haven’t seen the light, yet). So I wanted to just highlight some FREE offline backup utility options to get you down the right path. This is free as in you don’t have to shell out any cash but feel free to contribute voluntarily to the projects.

Linux

Back In Time

This is what I use on my machine. It has worked very reliably for months now. I haven’t yet had to make any backups but when upgrading my Dell Latitude E6440 with the mSATA drive and growing the 2.5″ SSHD Home partition, I backed up the home drive prior to just in case I messed things up. Fortunately the process went well so no “recovery” was required. I continue to take weekly snapshots of my home directory.

Back In Time

Back In Time openSUSE Install

Documentation for using Back In Time

Deja Dup

Easy to use, very friendly and can be set up for automated online or offline backups. This bit of software actually had more features to play with if you want to do snapshots to a networked service like Nextcloud, Google or a network share.

Deja Dup

Deja Dup openSUSE Install

Using Deja-Dup

Windows

Shadow Copy

Shadow Copy has been included in Windows since Windows XP Service Pack 2 and is pretty basic but easy to use. I have the misfortune of using Windows daily because of a certain bit of required proprietary software. My work machine is still using Windows 7, good bad or otherwise and I also use Windows 7 in VM, therefore I am currently most familiar with that version.

To set up backups is very straight forward and since it is included in Windows, there is really no excuse to not back up your data… at all.

Shadow Copy-1

Here is a guide on using it in Windows 10

Mac OS

Time Machine

included in MacOS since Leopard (2007). I don’t have a Mac nor do I plan to purchase one. Since this is included with your operating system, there is no excuse to not using this utility. When you are done working or playing on your “fruit box”. Plug in that $50 external drive and create that snapshot.

Here is a guide to set it up.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250

Final Thoughts

Back up your data. Really, just take the time, do it and be done with it. Make it a point to keep your data backed up once a week or every other week… even once a month would be great. There are many, many backup solutions out there, some are free, some are paid services and many may even be better for you. I highly, highly, recommend you make your offline backups and store them safely.

External Links

Back In Time openSUSE Install

Documentation for using Back In Time

Deja Dup openSUSE Install

Using Deja-Dup

Here is a guide on using it in Windows 10

Apple Support for Time Machine