IE7 and Firefox: security update

Picture of Firefox and IE7 homepages

It’s been about six months since I last posted about browser security. I reported then that Internet Explorer 7 had overcome many of the security vulnerabilities that plagued IE6 for so many years. I even said that IE7 should be considered as secure as Firefox until more data became available. So, what does the data say now?
IE7 is still vastly better than IE6. For those who prefer Internet Explorer, but haven’t yet upgraded to the newest version, wait no longer.

Despite IE7’s advances over it’s predecessor, however, some differences between IE7 and Firefox are beginning obvious. IE7 seems consistently to have more unpatched vulnerabilities than does Firefox. As of today, Secunia, a security consultancy, is reporting that IE7 has 10 unpatched vulnerabilities, almost twice as many as Firefox.

Moreover, IE7’s worst flaw is rated “Highly critical”, while Firefox’s worst is rated “Less critical”. Unfortunately for Internet Explorer, its trouble with more and more severe vulnerabilities is more habit than fluke. Every time I have checked Secunia’s vulnerability reports on the two browsers over the last six months, the general trend has not changed. At this point, it is clear that Firefox typically has fewer security flaws, and the flaws it has are not as serious as those of Internet Explorer.

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Do you still use Internet Explorer 6?

My server logs tell me that 55% of the visitors to this site use Internet Explorer, 25% use Firefox, and most of the remaining 20% use Opera, Safari, Konquerer, or Phoenix.

Unfortunately, the statistics package I use is not sophisticated enough to tell me which version of each browser people are using. So, one of the questions I have is this. How many of you still use Internet Explorer 6? If you use IE6, It’d be great if you’d leave a brief comment on why you use it, and, more specifically, why you use it even though its security is awful.

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Speedy updates matter for browser security

In the last post on this website, I noted that both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 should be considered secure browsers. Both browsers, according to Danish computer security service provider Secunia, had the same number of unfixed vulnerabilities at the time.

However, I was (and still am) hesitant to fully endorse Internet Explorer. Fixes for Internet Explorer have traditionally been much slower in coming than they have been for rival browsers, including Firefox. This may be the case, now, too.

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What’s new: browser security

The last months of 2006 saw the unveiling of new versions of both Internet Explorer and Firefox, the first and second most used web browsers respectively. Both browsers got security enhancements as well as pleasing feature additions, but, for our purposes, we will discuss only the security implications of the new releases. In the past, this blog has forcibly advocated Firefox over Internet Explorer for security reasons. Does this still stand?

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Internet Explorer 7’s Security

According to CNET News:

Microsoft plans to automatically push Internet Explorer 7 to Windows XP users when the browser update is ready later this year.

IE 7 will be delivered in the fourth quarter as a “high priority” update via Automatic Updates in Windows XP…

The jury is still out on this one, but this bit of news is probably a good thing. IE7 should have fewer security flaws than IE6 (currently the most widely used browser), although it is unlikely that it will be as secure as competing browsers like Firefox, Opera, Netscape, or Safari.

This improves everyone’s security

While I don’t recommend Internet Explorer, the fact is that the majority of internet users are still browsing the web with it, and an improvement in this browser’s security will be good for everyone.

We’re all connected to each other on the internet, which means that your neighbour’s level of security affects your level of security. (continue reading…)

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