For years, Internet Explorer has been the laughing stock of the tech community. Today, Internet Explorer 10 is desperately trying to change that reputation by offering faster speeds and safer browsing than browsers like Chrome and Firefox.
In the past few months, news about Internet Explorer 10 has been pretty quiet. Speeds and safety ratings have been comparable to modern browsers, but IE10 hasn’t done much to stand out from its competition.
However, a recent study by NSS Labs found that there was a significant difference between the malware detection rates of Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer 10. Specifically, Internet Explorer 10 detected 99.9% of all malware-infected URLs, while Chrome and Firefox weighed in at a measly 83.1% and 10% respectively.
That’s right: Firefox only detects 10% of malware-infected URLs while Safari, the browser used by Mac users around the world, let the vast majority of infected URLs slip through its cracks.
The tests involved exposing the browsers to 754 malware-infected URLs over a 28 day period. During this period, Internet Explorer 10 detected 99.96% of those URLs. Chrome came in a distant second place by detecting 83.16% of URLs, while Safari, Firefox, and Opera all detected 10% and fewer of those URLs.
Why the gap?
There’s a massive gap between IE10, Chrome, and the rest of the competition. Why is there such a major divide? It has everything to do with an old safe browsing system called Safe Browsing API v1, which uses cloud-based URL recognition to identify threats before users click on them.
A few years ago, Safe Browsing API v1 – which was actually developed by Google – was phenomenal at detecting malware-infested URLs. Today, it looks like that is no longer the case. Chrome uses Safe Browsing API v2, while IE10 uses a similar reputation-based URL detection system.
Why are malware-infected URLs dangerous?
The vast majority of viruses and malware are spread through infected URLs. Even the most trustworthy websites can become infected – so simply avoiding suspicious looking websites isn’t always enough.
The worst part about malware-infected URLs is that you only need to visit the site to become infected. Sometimes, a pop-up will appear warning you about a plugin that needs to be installed to access the site. In other cases, the website may automatically attempt to download and install files on your computer.
The end result of visiting an infected URL is that you get a virus on your computer. Once that happens, your personal information can be stolen, your computer actions may be monitored, or someone may even watch you through your webcam.
What does this mean for you?
If you want to significantly reduce your risk of stumbling upon a malware-infected URL, use Internet Explorer 10. While Chrome is a decent option as well, it’s significantly less powerful than IE10. And if you’re still using Firefox, Safari, or Opera to navigate, you might want to switch away – at least until the next major security update.