14 November 2009
First, which browsers are the most common these days? Wikipedia has a useful summary of browser usage statistics collected from various sources. The summary statistics look a little off to me (even after considering the note at the bottom of the table), but you get the basic idea: Internet Explorer and Firefox are running away with it.
Internet Explorer 6 remains a hopelessly dangerous browser, but I’ve been impressed by Internet Explorer versions 7 and 8. If you haven’t yet upgraded, do so now.
I wanted to update previous comparisons (see here, here, and here) between the two most prominent browsers, but Secunia, the security consultancy I had been getting figures from, now advises against using its statistics for comparison purposes because of the way it reports them.
Fair enough, and it wouldn’t hurt to go to a second source. I recently ran across a report by NSS Labs, which mentions that “53% of malware is now delivered via internet download versus just 12% via email, while IFrame exploits and other vulnerabilities comprise 7% and 5%, respectively…” (If you’re wondering, IFrame exploits are just another flavour of attack aimed at web browsers.)
Check out the report summary, which has two very interesting graphs. It looks like Internet Explorer 8 is beating Firefox (and other browsers) by a wide margin when it comes to protecting against “socially engineered malware” (links that lead to infected downloads), while the two leading browsers provide about the same amount of protection against phishing attempts.