"Browser security has been a topic that both [WhiteHat security director of product management] Robert Hansen and I have been discussing publicly for years now," said WhiteHat CTO Jeremiah Grossman, in an email. "Many people ask us what browser we use, and our answer has always been 'my own.' That browser is Aviator. It is a browser that we feel confident in using not only for our own security and privacy, but one that we can now confidently recommend to family and friends when they ask. So, in that sense, it has been an internal, personal project for years."
In announcing Aviator, Hansen argued that the major browser vendors choose not to make changes that could run the risk of hurting their market shares or ability to make money, particularly when it comes to online ads.
The browser has been designed by default to run in a "private mode" that purges any cookies being stored when the browser is restarted. The browser has also made plug-ins such as Adobe Flash Player and Java click-to-play to limit their use in the name of tracking and malware attacks.
"A large percentage of malware is distributed through Java or Flash exploits via drive-by attacks," Hansen explained. "Often sites are compromised and malicious content is sourced in or is sometimes distributed through ad networks. By allowing the content to be load-only when the user wants, as opposed to at the whim of whoever has developed the Web page, it reduces the likelihood of exploitation by a huge amount through those commonly used plug-ins."
The browser is built off of Chromium. Right now, Aviator works only on Macs, but support for Windows and other operating systems may come in the future.
"Because WhiteHat is primarily a Mac shop, this initial version is Mac OS X," Grossman explains. "The feedback so far has been very positive, and requests for a Windows, Linux, and even open-source versions are pouring in, so we are definitely determining where to focus our resources on what should come next. But there is no definite time frame yet of when other versions will be available."
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