Editor’s note: This story previously erroneously reported the percentages for Safari and Firefox and has been updated.
Internet Explorer is the most secure browser for blocking phishing and socially engineered malware, according to an information security research and advisory company.
Of the four major browsers, Microsoft’s was shown to block 89 percent of malware and phishing attacks, according to NSS Labs’ Oct. 28 report. Google Chrome blocked 76 percent of attacks, and Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox blocked 53 and 52 percent, respectively.
“Microsoft is very competitive on phishing blocking, but no one is coming close to them on socially engineered malware,” said Randy Abrams, the author of the study.
The study compared block rates for each browser since 2009.
According to Abrams, Microsoft’s protection prominence is due to its Smartscreen Application Reputation system, which uses the history of a download to decide if it is malicious.
If the program has never seen a file downloaded before, or if it has a bad history, it is likely to be blocked.
“It’s like if you don’t have credit and you are trying to get credit,” Abrams said. “The bank probably won’t lend to you.”
Google Chrome’s security has risen in the past few years due to its Content-Agnostic Malware Protection, which acts similarly to Microsoft’s program.
“Google has been improving since 2011,” Abrams said. “[It] went from 10 to 15 percent to 60 percent.”
Safari hasn’t put much stock into malware protection, mostly because Apple computers are not targeted as often as PCs.
Malware is software in disguise downloaded by the user. Sites that claim to clean your computer or offer free money often install bots that try to break into a user’s bank account or collect personal information.
“A lot are financial fraud,” Abrams said. “They interrupt a banking session and send the money elsewhere. The software will replace the real balance with what you expect to see.”
Malware can also be used for spamming or denial-of-service attacks. Phishing works the same way, but is attached in an email.
However, savvy users can use any browser they like because they are able to recognize when a site is trying to install malware onto their computer.
“Education is really important,” Abrams said of avoiding malware. “It is the great equalizer.”