Browser Security Wars: Can Google, Microsoft, Apple, And Mozilla Keep You Safe?

Soldier on computer

Photo: Flickr/The National Guard

The Internet is a dangerous, virus-infested place. Today’s most popular Web browsers claim they are chock full of protections to keep you safe.Some of the browser vendors get a little testy about each others’ proclamations about who can protect you better.

For instance, Microsoft loves to tout a quarterly security shootout, performed by NSS Labs, which tends to find a weakness in its competitor’s browsers. Its latest found that Internet Explorer’s security blocked 95 per cent of the bad stuff on the Web while Chrome blocks 33 per cent, and Safari and Firefox block less than 6 per cent.

UPDATED: It points out that certain browsers do a better job of protecting against certain nastiness better than others.

But all the browsers have their own advantages. For instance, Google encourages hackers to find holes and pays them cash when they do in what’s known as a “vulnerability reward program.” It has a good track record of fixing vulnerabilities fast. It sometimes rolls out a fix in as little as 12 hours.

We’ve sifted through the security features of the top four browsers to help compare how each one protects its users. These include Internet Explorer 9 and the upcoming version 10 released with Windows 8; Google Chrome; Mozilla Firefox; and Apple’s Safari.

Before we get into the unique security features of each browser, let’s look at what they all say they do.

  • Malware warning: Tells you that a site contains viruses or will try to trick you into giving it your password information (an attack called phishing).
  • Private browsing: Allows you to clear websites and cookies from your browser so no one can see what sites you visited.
  • Do Not Track settings: Prevents advertising companies from tracking everything you do online.
  • “Sandbox” mode: Keeps Web-based applications from being able to jump out of the browser and install something nasty onto your computer.

Special features in Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer verifies which applications on the Web are safe to download and which are not. It doesn’t block the whole Web page, just the download. If you go to download something that hasn’t checked out as ok, IE 9 will warn you that the app “is not commonly downloaded and could be risky.”

IE 10 will also warn you about fishy Windows 8 apps posted to websites outside Microsoft’s app store.

Special features in Google Chrome

Google Chrome automatically updates itself to the latest, safest version. Users never have to install an update manually.

Google Chrome makes it really difficult for Chrome extensions to include malware.

Special features in Mozilla Firefox

Firefox won’t let you download any applications over the Web unless it’s done over a secure connection. It can integrate antivirus applications to scan a download to verify its safety.

Click-to-play plugins gives you a warning if you are about to use an out-of-date or otherwise vulnerable plug-ins.

Special features in Apple Safari

Private AutoFill keeps a website from reading what you type as you type when filling out a form. You can complete the form with information from contacts, too.

Location warning tells you when a website is grabbing information about your whereabouts. You can block this info if you choose to.

Don’t miss: 10 Awesome Apps To Protect Your Smartphone

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