10/7/2004

The most secure browser

Filed under: — By Aviran Mordo @ 1:57 pm

There are many discussions about who is the most secure browser. In the last few month people are more aware to the fact that the browser we use can be dangerous, due to recent security flaws discovered and highly publicized in both Internet Explorer and in Mozilla.
With the rollout of Windows XP service pack 2 Microsoft claims that windows and Internet Explorer are more secure then ever before. But recent discoveries show otherwise and although Internet Explorer is still the most popular browser in the world, the wind of change started to blow with the release of Mozilla’s FireFox 1.0PR, and for the first time in many years IE market share started to drop, as many users migrated to the new kid in the block, FireFox.

In the browser market there are three major players. Microsoft with IE, Mozilla based browsers and the fast and lean Opera.
So who is the safest browser?
To answer this question we first need to point out one fact. Most hackers will use well known vulnerabilities in your browser to hack in to your system. Having said that, in order to determine who is the most secure browser we’ll take a look at known vulnerabilities in each browser, and see how their respective developer handled those flaws.
In this review we’ll try to answer the question which browser has less vulnerabilities and how long it takes to fix new security flaws. In order to come to a conclusion we’ll take a look at the 2003-2004 period and compare Internet Explorer, FireFox and Opera browsers. The data is taken from Secunia.com which is one of the leading provider of IT-security services.


Internet Explorer 6.


As of October 2004, Internet Explorer 6 holds 69.8% of the browsers marker share.
According to Secunia.com 44 security advisories where issued for Internet Explorer 6 during the period 2003-2004. Out of the 44 advisories, 16 remain unpatched (36%). 27 of the 44 advisories are ranked as “Highly critical” and “Extremely critical” flaws (ranks 4 and 5 of 5), out of which, 5 still remain unpatched. The oldest unpatched flaw dates 2003-03-13.

IE advisories
Internet Explorer Advisories (source)


Mozilla – FireFox


Mozilla based browsers holds 17.0% of the market share as of October 2004
In the time period of 2003-2004 FireFox issued 14 advisories. Out of the 14 advisories, only 2 remain unpatched, and both ranked as “Less critical” (rank 2 of 5). 2 of the 14 advisories where ranked as “Highly critical” (4 of 5) flaws, none was ranked as “Extrmrly critical”. The oldest unpatched flaw dates 2004-08-30.

FireFox Advisories
FireFox Advisories (source)

Article continues


Opera 7


Opera browser has the lease amount of market share with only 2.3% as of October 2004.
During 2003-2004 Opera had 26 advisories. Unlike the previous two, all the flaws were fixed. 4 of the 26 advisories ranked as “Highly critical” and “Extremely critical” flaws (ranks 4 and 5 of 5).

Opera Advisories
Opera Advisories (source)

Summery

Browser Market share Advisories Critical Unpatched Critical unpatched Oldest Unpached
IE 6 69.8% 44 27 16 5 2003-03-13
FireFox 17% (all Mozilla based browers) 14 2 2 0 2004-08-30
Opera 7 2.3% 26 4 0 0 None

Browser comparison chart

Although there is no clear winner, it is easy to see that Internet Explorer 6 is the least secure browser, with the most advisories and still has 5 critical unpatched flaws.
Both FireFox and Opera browsers are doing a good job securing their browsers and fixing security flaws in a timely manner.
My personal pick is FireFox, since it is open source and bugs can be discovered and fixed much faster then a closed code program. But as I said before Opera is also a very good choice.

 

11 Responses to “The most secure browser”

  1. Leon Says:

    Great article! I enjoyed reading it! Keep up the good work!

    Leon.

  2. Omer Says:

    Great article. very intersting and usefull.
    should tell my dad about it since he hates firefox/mozilla till this day.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    17% market share for Mozilla based browsers? What have you been smoking? Mozilla based browsers don’t even have 5% of the global market share. These statistics are either from a very small site or a very Mozilla-targeted site, which skews the statistics insanely.

    In addition, Secunia is KNOWN for being unprofessional about vulnerabilities, they rarely grasp the root cause and the criticality of an advisory. Using them for vulnerability statistics is like using a spoon to cut bread.

    And finally, IE has been targeted furiously by security researchers, as Mozilla and Opera research brings much less publicity because of reason #1 (tiny market share).

  4. Anonymous Says:

    remember Mozilla based includes netscape and mozilla and firefox, plus some others.

    The numbers may well be optimisitic but they do have more than 5%.

    As for IE being a target that’s true, but it is also true that this means it gets more problems. It is less secure because if it’s widespread use.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    The total market share of Gecko based browsers according to w3schools is more than 17%, because Mozilla based Netscape 7 is listed separately. You have to add the Netscape market share to Mozilla’s.

    The available statistics of browser market shares are very biased. W3schools is a site made for the tech savvy, so there the market share of non-IE-browsers is higher than in the avarage population of internet users.

    In the other side, who cares of a global market share? Does the browser usage in China really matter for a web developer who has to create a web site for a swedish audience?

    In Germany, for example, Mozilla’s market share was in October 2004 at 10.5% according to webhits.de. Germany’s most popular and influental news magazine spiegel.de reported a Mozilla market share of 25% in October 2004, only 70% for Internet Explorer on its own site (38.000.000 visits per month). The visitors of spiegel.de are higher educated than avarage users, have a higher income, but they are not Geeks. So you can assume a Mozilla market share in Germany in the range between 12 to 17% as realistic, that’s much more than a niche browser. Mozilla users obvioulsy are early adopters, have a higher income and a higher eduaction than the avarage users of Internet Explorer. So, whom should intelligent internet marketing have in mind?

  6. Anonymous Says:

    in my opinion firefox is safest browser.

  7. Vice Says:

    IE has numerous bugs not related to security. They dont fully support W3C standards, nor css standards, and thier javascript memory allocation is garbage. Now with such sloppy support on such simple features I find it hard to believe that the IE’s security is (or will ever be) bulltproof. In contrast, Mozilla supports all standards almost flawlesly, and i can believe that the same amount of care has been put into the security infrastructure. When it comes down to it I trust Firefox and since i’ve switched I havent had any spyware at all.

  8. Salamandersushi Says:

    As said previously, it doesn’t matter who has the largest or smallest share of the browser market! It changes in reflection to what part of the world you are in, website developers should be coding W3C compliant and start using more CSS - it will seriously reduce any browser-inoperability issues that may arise.

    With regard to whichever browser is more secure, I feel they are all as secure as we need them to be. What is in dire need though is people that BROWSE SMARTER! Use your common-sense people! Dont go to “www.trenchcoatpornandappz.com” (hope this isint a real site!! ) expecting a safe browsing experience!!!

    Whatever your browser preference really grinds down to what icon you like seeing on your desktop. (With regard to Mozilla and Opera, hopefully IE soon!) They all do tabbed-browsing, skinnable browser windows, etc…

    How much further will this topic progress till it reaches the old PC vs. MAC debate???

  9. Osarkon Says:

    Firefox has proved itself to me to be vastly superior to IE. It has more features, runs much more stable, and combined with tweaking tools runs much faster than IE . IE has had how long now to bring a good internet browser out? And still we don’t see tabbed browsing, although admittedly there is finally a pop-up blocker. Firefox has had tabbed browsing for so long now no-one who’s used it for a while thinks twice, yet when IE finally brings it out those poor people who have used it will be having excitement fits whilst the Firefox users will sit back and say ‘get with the times, we’ve had that for years.’

  10. Aura Says:

    I’ve been using Firefox from the day i got my system..Until now i have not faced problems with it.
    But i’d also like to try Opera..Just read a review bout Maxthon..Any comments??

  11. büro mobilyaları Says:

    Firefox has had tabbed browsing for so long now no-one who’s used it for a while thinks twice, yet when IE finally brings it out those poor people who have used it will be having excitement fits whilst the Firefox users will sit back and say ‘get with the times, we’ve had that for years.

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