Which browser is safest? The answer may surprise you

Web browsers are one of the main ways that malware finds its way onto your machine. Tests carried out by NSS Labs looked at the five major players, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer to see which offers the best protection against more than 700 examples of real-world malware.

And the safest is... (Drum roll and a long, reality TV-style pause...) Internet Explorer 10, blocking 99.96 percent of known malicious downloads. Chrome comes second on 83.16 percent with the other three trailing a long way behind at around 10 percent each. This might come as a surprise to all those people who have long shunned Microsoft’s browser in favor of third-party alternatives on the grounds that they were safer.

So what's the reason for the difference? Safari, Firefox and Opera all rely solely on URL blacklists to block potential attacks. Chrome and Internet Explorer both have additional "context agnostic malware protection" (CAMP). In IE’s case this is called "Application Protection" whereas Chrome names it "Download Protection". Using CAMP technology means there’s more chance of false positives and so it relies on asking the user to make a choice to block or allow the download which potentially introduces a weak link in the chain.

If you filter the CAMP element out of the results then Chrome performs no better than Safari and Firefox. However, IE 10 still turns in an impressive 83.17 percent block rate based on URL reputation.

Now of course we technically aware types are careful about the links we click anyway. But it seems that if you’re worried about protecting your more vulnerable friends and relatives when they’re online you should encourage them to use IE 10.

Photo credit: dohtoor/Shutterstock

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