Web browsers are the gateways to the Internet. Once exploited, they become the primary vectors for breaking into computer systems and infecting them with malicious programs. One of the most popular means of breaching security barriers and compromising sensitive data over the Internet is via phishing attacks. Malicious URLs linking to phishing sites has been on the rise over the years. For instance more than 50,000 phishing sites were discovered per month in the last year alone. Another major threat is malware, including viruses, worms, Trojans etc that makes your system a prey of a remote predator. As the gateways to the Internet the browsers are bound to protect your systems from these types of online threats. Therefore they implement numerous security work-outs behind the curtains without relying on security barriers of the OS and antivirus software. Following is a comprehensive discussion about the security features on major web browsers seen today.
Internet Explorer 10 Security:
Over the past couple of years Internet Explorer continued to tarnish its reputation over numerous bugs and vulnerabilities amidst a fierce competition lead by Google Chrome and Mozilla Firebox. However with the new IE 10 launched exclusively for Windows 8 (It supports Windows 7 as well) the software giant strives hard to regain the top notch spot it once enjoyed. Microsoft has introduced several security upgrades to the IE9 in creating the browser destined to serve Windows 8. Enhanced Protected Mode for example restricts browser’s access rights to the other applications to provide an additional layer of protection.
Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) introduced with Windows Vista has been tweaked and renamed ForceASLR, and addresses memory related vulnerabilities often exploited by socially engineered malware. Windows 8 kernel includes ForceASLR protection out of the box, and Windows 7 users can enable the feature via an update. InPrivate Browsing enables the users to browse in private, as the browser does not store browsing history, cookies, temporary internet files, user names and passwords etc during a browsing session. Recently NSS Labs on their review on browser security published that Internet Explorer 10 has a malware blocking rate of 99.1% and Phishing URL blocking rate of 92%.
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Google Chrome Security:
According to a research conducted by NSS Labs reviewing security features of popular web browsers, Chrome had a malware blocking rate of 70.4% backed by Google’s Malicious Download Protection although this lagged behind the 99.1% of Internet Explorer 10. Chrome has also excelled above the rivals in blocking phishing URLs. Just In Time Hardening (JIT) and Plug-In Security too add plus ones to the chromium camp as these features prevent malicious code snippets taking control over your system behind your back.
Mozilla Firefox Security:
Firefox too is blessed with numerous security features to keep the users safe from exploits and attacks. Site Identity Button provides an overview of the reputation of the website, owners of the website, whether it’s a verified site etc. enabling you to stay away from suspicious sites that could potentially harm your PC. Private Browsing makes browser forget the web history, user names, passwords, cookies etc while Do-not-track feature enables users to inform web sites not to track their behaviors on the sites. However it should be noted that you are only requesting from the websites not to keep tabs on you, adhering to that is entirely up to the website. Firefox is able to mitigate cross site scripting(XCC) attacks using the content secure policy it has adapted to communicate with the website to filter legitimate content.
Firefox enjoys automatic updates, therefore users always get to enjoy the latest and most stable version of the software without having to manually update. Blocking of phishing attacks, detecting outdated plug-ins and blocking malware integrating with the anti-virus software installed on your PC are some of the key security features of the browser. However blocking rate of malware attacks by the browser itself is very poor, recording around 4.2% compared to the 99.1% of Internet Explorer 10 and 70.4% of chrome. That being said you are at the mercy of your anti-virus software when malware downloaded into the computer is concerned.
Like there isn’t anything called a perfect security system there isn’t anything called a perfect browser, and there never will be. Each of the browser discussed above have their own set of pros and cons, and beats the rivals in some aspects. Internet Explorer 10 is a huge transition from the not so pleasant history of its predecessors, and offers rich set of features to maximize your security online. Its malware detection system is able to detect and block 99.1% of the known malware as revealed by NSS Labs. No other browser comes even closer to that margin, with chrome following from a distant scoring 70.4%. However when blocking phishing URLs is concerned, chrome excels ahead of the rivals. Firefox too offers decent set of security features along with its automatic updates in order to keep the users safe. Whatever the browser you’d be using, understanding that security flaws do exist with any kind of system and sticking to the latest versions of the applications and installing security updates and patches recommended by the manufacturer are important for a secure online experience.