Is It Time to Ditch IE?

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In Search of a Safer Browser

Running a tab: Firefox's tabs lets you flip instantly between sites.

Alternative browsers may not soon eclipse Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but that doesn't mean they can't serve alongside or even replace it. US-CERT reports "a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, the DHTML object model, MIME type determination, and ActiveX," and that "it is possible to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different Web browser, especially when browsing untrusted sites."

Using different browsers can also change the way you experience the Web. On the one hand, they can stop you in your tracks at Web sites engineered to work only with IE. But on the other hand, you might be pleasantly surprised: Alternative browser features missing in IE include password managers and tabbed browser windows.

Rolf Assev, an executive vice president at Opera Software, says that safety concerns rather than new features drive users to the Opera browser: Reports of IE's security flaws have spurred a big increase both in free downloads and in sales. Downloads of the Mozilla Foundation's Mozilla and Firefox browsers have also spiked.

Using a non-Microsoft browser doesn't assure security. Hackers recently exploited flaws--since patched--in both Opera and Mozilla (as well as in the Netscape browser derived from the latter). Still, the fact that these browsers suffer far fewer attacks than IE could make them look like safe harbors, even if only for a little while.

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