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My browser is more secure than yours

I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab,” in which unsuspecting cab riders enter a rolling game show, and was forced to think about work once again. The red light challenge that day, in which passengers have to answer a multipart question while the cab sits at a red light, was all about Web browsers. Contestants had to name the four most popular browsers on the market today. The passengers got them all with time to spare, though they didn’t quite beat my time.

This story in GCN makes me wonder if those same players could have ranked the most secure browsers in the same short time frame. I know I would have missed it.

Apple and its highly successful “Hello, I’m a Mac…” TV ads have gotten most people thinking that Macs and, by extension, the Safari browser are the most secure in the world. But that isn’t the case, according to a survey by application security firm Cenzic. In fact, Safari was one of the most dangerous to use, with 35 percent of the vulnerabilities present in the Cenzic test. And here is a bit of a snicker that we Internet Explorer folks can aim at the coffee-sipping, counterculture snobs who use Firefox: It’s the least secure, with a whopping 44 percent of the vulnerabilities in the Cenzic test. That means if you visit an infected Web site with Firefox, it’s a coin flip whether or not your computer is going to get a virus or malware installed on it.

The most secure browser was Opera, but given that only about seven people in Sweden use the thing, that’s not such big news. In terms of mainstream browsers, the most secure turned out to be (drum roll, please) Microsoft Internet Explorer, with only 15 percent of the vulnerabilities tested. (Opera had only 6 percent.)

Although surprising at first, when you think about it, it makes sense that the Redmond team would concentrate on security, seeing as Microsoft has always been the top target of hackers. The most fortified border in the world sits between North and South Korea, where the threat of attack is greatest, not between Luxembourg and Belgium, where happy people can walk between the two holding a steaming plate of trout in Riesling sauce with buckwheat dumplings.

So here I am with the second most secure browser in the world -- Internet Explorer -- and I didn’t even have to do anything to get it. It came standard with my PC, which is probably the reason most people use it. I’ve always been a standard loadout type of guy anyway, but the extra step of downloading and installing a different browser takes work, and I just don’t want to make the effort. But if you ask me now, I’ll tell you that I stick with IE because, after all, it’s one of the most secure browsers in the world.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 PM KY

I sent this article to a co-worker who responded with the link below to a Cenzic report from March 2009. Sounds like they contradict...themselves. Just want everyone to have as much info as possible. http://blog.internetnews.com/skerner/2009/03/cenzic-ie-tops-browser-vuln-li.html

Tue, Dec 1, 2009

Internet Explorer users face new zero-day threat http://gcn.com/articles/2009/12/01/microsoft-internet-explorer-bugs.aspx

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 Washington, DC

Suggest readers take a look at the National Vulnerability Database http://nvd.nist.gov/ Readers will get a better objective view with quantifiable and empirical data of what vulnerabilities exist for each vendor and the severity. Also see comparison of browser security and methods http://www.techzoom.net/publications/silent-updates/

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