Testing firm: Internet Explorer tops browsers for malware protection

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what browser blocks malware best of all? The answer to that question is Microsoft Internet Explorer 10, at least according to the latest test results released by NSS Labs.

In tests performed on the five top browsers on the market—IE 10, Google Chrome 25/26, Apple Safari 5, Mozilla Firefox 19 and Opera 12—NSS researchers found that IE 10 blocked more than 99 percent of the malicious downloads thrown at it.

Finishing behind IE 10 was Chrome with a block rate exceeding 83 percent. That was more than a 10 percent improvement over its performance in past tests, NSS said.

The security research company asserted that a key to Chrome’s improved performance was the addition of a safe browsing API. “Google’s Safe Browsing API v2 includes additional application reputation-based download protection that has been integrated into Chrome, but not into Firefox or Safari and the results speak for themselves,” NSS said.

“The latest API’s additional functionality is seven times more effective than the Safe Browsing API alone and accounts for 73.16 percent of Chrome’s overall block rate of 83.16 percent. Without the application reputation service,” it added, “Chrome, Firefox and Safari all have block rates of around 10 percent.”

Browsers have become a prime target for hackers seeking to distribute malware that can steal information from the computers it affects, as well as use a machine for activities such as sending spam and participating in Distributed Denial of Service attacks.

“The web browser is the primary vector by which malware is introduced to computers,” NSS said in its test report. “Links in phishing emails, compromised websites, and trojanized ‘free’ software downloads all deliver malware via web browser downloads.”

But NSS also contends that browsers can be the first line of defense against malware. “Browsers must provide a strong layer of defense from malware, especially in mobile operations, rather than relying upon third-party anti-malware solutions and operating system protections,” NSS added.

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