Roger's Security Blog

As Chief Security Advisor of Microsoft EMEA - lets share interesting security information

Internet Explorer 8 best to protect customer

Internet Explorer 8 best to protect customer

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NSSLabs just recently published a study on browser security with regards to Phising and Malware protection, which we comissioned. To take it upfront: The whole methodology is transperent and therefore rather than challenging the results, let’s learn from them how we can improve.

As I do not want to take the joy away for you to read the study, I just want to show you two pieces of information from the report:

Let’s look at the Phising study first:

They looked at how long a user has to wait until a Phishing URL is blocked by the browser:

Browser Avg. Add Time (hrs)
Internet Explorer 8 4.96
Firefox 3 5.24
Opera 10 Beta 6.19
Chrome 2 11.08
Safari 4 54.67
mean 16.44

Scary to me is that Safari by far increases the mean of the group. Even though Chrome 2 is behind the other three, I guess that Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera are comparable here (even though we are more than 20% faster).

So, speed is one thing, accuracy and completeness another one. Let me quote from the report: The average phishing URL catch rate for browsers over the entire 14 day test period ranged from 2% for Safari 4 to 83% for Windows Internet Explorer 8.  Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3 were the most consistent in the high level of protection they offered. Statistically, Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3 had a two-way tie for first, given the margin of error of 3.96%. Opera 10 beta came in third due to inconsistent protection during the test. Chrome 2 was consistent, albeit at a much lower rate of protection, and Safari offered minimal overall protection.

Or in graphical terms:

500x261[1]Again, the scary piece is the huge difference between the different browsers. Whereas Internet Explorer and Firefox are similar, the rest is far, far (and Safari even further) spread out.

Then they did a similar test with regards to socially engineered Malware protection:

Again, looking at the response time, I guess we can improve when it comes to the comparison with other browsers:

Browser Avg. Add Time (hrs)
Opera 10 Beta 5.5
Firefox 3 6.7
Internet Explorer 8 9.2
Safari 4 31.5
Chrome 2 76.8
mean 25.9

But again, there is a huge gap between the best and the worst (and they are very bad). When it comes then to the block rate, the game changes:

500x204[1] Again, to quote the report:

Internet Explorer 8  caught 81% of the live threats, an exceptional score which surpassed the next best browser (Firefox 3) by a 54% margin. Windows Internet Explorer 8 improved 12% between Q1 and Q2 tests, evidence of concerted efforts Microsoft is making in the SmartScreen technology.

Firefox 3 caught 27% of live threats, far fewer than Internet Explorer 8. It was, however, the best among products utilizing the Google SafeBrowsing API. (Note: Firefox 3.5 was not stable enough to be tested during the course of this test. A patch has subsequently become available to address the stability issue. We were able to manually verify that the protection was identical between versions 3.0.11 and 3.5).

Safari 4 caught 21% of live threats.  Overall protection varied greatly, with two short periods of severe dips.  Chrome 2 caught just 7% of live threats an 8% drop from the previous test. 

Opera 10 Beta caught a mere 1% of live threats, providing virtually no protection against socially engineered malware. In our test bed validation, we verified there was effectively no difference between Opera 9 and Opera 10 Beta.

So, this is definitely interesting material for your next browser discussion

Roger

Comments
  • Looking Forward to this version of IE as the previous IE7 had nothing new or noticeable except tabbed browsing and phishing filter etc. but this one has some cool new stuff and lots of features.

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