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You know how I feel about my friends up in Redmond, WA, right?  I get really annoyed when Microsoft gets a bad rap for things.  It’s the same thing that annoys me when people bash on Dell or other brands that are near and dear to my heart.  One thing that Microsoft gets a bad rap for is Internet Explorer.  I’m sure it will be no surprise to my readers that I almost exclusively use Internet Explorer.  I use Firefox when I have to check the design of a website I’m coding, and for my sweepstakes entries.  So people say that Chrome, Firefox and Safari and all much safer than Internet Explorer.  Who wants to know the truth?

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report it’s completely untrue!  In the report Firefox topped the list with the most vulnerabilities next being Safari and then IE.  Chrome was the only browser that had a lower vulnerability report than IE.  When looking at vulnerabilities though, you want to check out how long it takes the company to patch these discovered vulnerabilities.  Again, according the report the “window of opportunity” for an attack was also lowest with Internet Explorer.  This means that the time between when the threat is discovered and the time when it’s patched.  IE and Firefox patched their browsers in less than a day, Chrome was patched in 2 days, and it takes Safari 13 DAYS on average to patch!

Since Internet Explorer has the largest install base, it is going to be the prime target for the virus makers.  Someone who creates a virus wants it to infect as many computers as possible.  Therefore, they are going to target the programs that the majority of people use.  This is another reason that people say Mac’s are so secure.  It’s not that it is such a secure operating system (although Steve Jobs’ strangle hold over the programs he allows to run on it help it to keep vulnerabilities to a minimum, even if you do give up some of your free will/agency to use it), the main reason it’s so secure is that the install base is small.  It is especially small in corporate environments, where a virus can do the most damage.

So make sure you have set up your computer for regular updates, and you should be fine, no matter what browser you are using.


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  • This is a much-debated topic, but there are good reasons behind the assertions that Macs (and Linux machines) are more secure than Windows. It’s just because the install base is smaller (although that certainly contributes), but more to the point is the idea of permissions. To install and run programs on, say, a Linux box requires the correct permissions. The “administrator” (aka “root”) is the only one who can install programs that affect the entire system. Users can only mess with their own files–not with the guts of the OS that makes everything run. So if some Java script exploit you get through your browser tries to take control of your system, it can’t because it lacks the proper permissions.

    Wow, this turned into a longer comment than I meant it to be. I just wanted to point out that defining security it complicated. It’s hard to pick one number (like time to patch) and say conclusively that that is what makes something more secure that something else.

  • Thank you for your insights Don, but I wasn’t talking about operating systems. I was comparing browsers regardless of which OS it was installed on. So permissions have nothing to do with it when you are talking about three different browsers all running a Windows OS.

  • True. I was mainly focusing on the 2nd to last paragraph where you mentioned secure operating systems. Re-reading, I realize that wasn’t what the post was about. 🙂

  • Microsoft has always been pretty good with patching security holes quickly. My main beef with IE has been the support of various progressing web standards such as CSS 2.1, and 24bit png’s, a factor that Microsoft neglected a long time with IE6, but they have been getting progressively better since IE7, and IE9 is pretty sweet. Right now my top 3 browsers are Firefox, Chrome, and IE9, opera is pretty good to but four browsers would be one too many even for me. 🙂