Jul 15, 2013

Keep Your Firefox Settings Private By Setting Up Your Own Sync Server

I wrote yesterday about how I've switched back to Firefox for my default browser for privacy reasons.

One of the reasons I switched from Firefox over to Google Chrome in the first place was the ability to sync my settings between computers. The problem with that is that your data is stored on Google's servers, and we all know that they have no problems selling your data to third party marketers or the NSA.

Well Firefox has a sync feature too, and although I trust Mozilla more than I do Google, by default your sync settings are still stored on a 3rd party server.

The great thing about Firefox though is that they allow you to setup your own sync server so you can still sync data between computers, but you can opt to sync it on your own servers for better privacy and security. I'll show you how to set one up easily!

First you will need to have an Ubuntu LAMP server ready to go with SSL enabled, and the unzip package installed. I'll let you Google how to do that.

Once that is ready do the following:
  • Change into the /var/www directory

    cd /var/www/
  • Download the sync server files

    wget https://github.com/balu-/FSyncMS/archive/master.zip
  • Unzip the package zip archive

    unzip FSyncMS-master.zip
  • Rename the extracted directory

    mv FSyncMS-master ff
  • Change into the ff/FSyncMS-master directory

    cd ff/FSyncMS-master/
  • Copy all of the files to /var/www/ff

    cp * .. -R
  • Change into /var/www/ff and delete the FSyncMS-master directory and the master.zip file

    cd ..
    rm FSyncMS-master -R
    rm master.zip
  • Next create a database in MySQL called firefox mysql -u root -p
    CREATE DATABASE firefox;
    GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON firefox.* TO firefox IDENTIFIED BY "password";
  • Browse to https://servername/ff/setup.php and follow the prompts
  • When finished delete /var/www/ff/setup.php
After creating accounts by setting up sync in Firefox I recommend changing define("ENABLE_REGISTER", true); to define("ENABLE_REGISTER", false); in /var/www/ff/settings.php to prevent random people from creating accounts on your server. After all, this server needs to be publicly available. Also, make sure you change the word "password" to a more secure REAL password.

That's it, now when you want to sync other browsers you can use the pairing method like you normally would, but instead of pulling your sync data from Mozilla, you will be pulling from your new private Firefox sync server.

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