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Easy Firefox History Audits

Here's a tool that lets you quickly audit a user's Firefox browsing history.

Chris: I read your article "Easy IE History Audits" and loved it. That program really works great. I was wondering if you knew of anything similar for Firefox.
-- Jim

Jim: Firefox uses a different file format than IE for history data, so as you have discovered the IE history audit tools are not compatible with Firefox. As of Firefox 2.0, Firefox history files are written using the Mork file format. Note that this will eventually change, as work is ongoing for MozStorage, which will write to a more efficient SQLite database. I've always found Firefox performance to be excellent, but any improvements in speed and efficiency are always welcome.

 

To audit Firefox history stored in the current Mork format, you can use the tool DORK 0.0. This tool is simple to use and does not require an installation. To use DORK 0.0 to audit Firefox history, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Dork History Reader zip file and extract it to a local directory on your system.
  2. Copy the Firefox history.dat file of the user that you wish to audit from the user's profile folder to your system. Note that this file is located by default in the C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<Profile Name> folder. For example, my Firefox history file is saved in the C:\Documents and Settings\cwolf\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\
    v8qsa7jz.default\history.dat file.
  3. With the user's history.dat file saved on your computer, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder where you extracted the dork_history_reader.zip file. Now double-click on the Dork.exe file.
  4. The Mozilla HISTORY.DAT Reader window should open. Now just use Windows Explorer to locate the history.dat file to be audited. Then drag and drop the file into the Mozilla HISTORY.DAT Reader window.
  5. The tool will process the history.dat file and create a new file named history.txt in the same folder as the history.dat file. To view the user's Firefox browsing history, just open the history.txt file.
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The info that's listed in the history.txt file is well organized. In it you'll see the following information for each Web site viewed by the user:

  • URL
  • Number of times visited
  • Date and time of first access
  • Data and time of last access

As I mentioned in my "Easy IE History Audits" article, localized profile auditing is no replacement for centralized Internet access auditing using a device such as a proxy server. If you don't have a proxy server, then users that manually clear browser history should be a concern. Plenty of work has been done on adding centralized administration capabilities (including locking Firefox settings) to Firefox. If you're looking to lock down Firefox preferences so that users don't even have the option to clear their history, then I suggest you take a look at the Firefox extension Public Fox. Centralized Firefox management via a GPO is also available using the open source tool WetDog.

Since these tools offer the ability to lock down user browser settings and also audit history files, hopefully these tools will provide the level of management and auditing that your organization requires.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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