Security and Internet Browsers – Firefox vs Internet Explorer

The Internet is becoming a more and more dangerous place to be, due in no small part to the inherent security risks posed by viruses and spyware. Additionally, applications that access the Internet as part of their normal operations idm kuyhaa may have errors in their code that allows hackers to launch attacks against the computer on which those applications are running. The safety and integrity of digital assets is further compromised by the fast-growing threat of cybercrooks who devise and implement large-scale hoaxes such as phishing and ID theft.

In the light of all this, it’s clear that users need a reliable and secure web browser between them and the Internet, which will be free of these problems and won’t let harmful content invade the computer.

The web browser industry continues to be dominated by the Windows-bundled Internet Explorer, with an 85% market share, but in recent years a new breed of free, more functional and resilient browsers has appeared – the most popular being Mozilla/Firefox and Opera. All have received serious security upgrades to help protect against recent scares and safeguard users online.

Internet Explorer is at version 6.0, essentially the same product that was included with Windows XP in 2001. Eighteen months ago, the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 substantially increased IE safety; however, it did not eliminate many of the loopholes exploited by hostile program code. At present, Firefox is at version 1.5, but its very different development history (see next section) means that it can be considered at a similar level of maturity as Internet Explorer.

Currently, Microsoft is preparing its next-generation browser, Internet Explorer 7.0, which it plans to introduce sometime during the first half of 2006. The company has stated that it intends to make the browser stronger and more secure to help protect its users against the many problems that have dogged the software over the years.

We, along with Internet users everywhere, await the final results with interest. In the meantime, we decided to undertake our own security evaluation of both IE 7 (beta) and its closest rival, Firefox 1.5.

History and overview

Internet Explorer is a proprietary graphical web browser developed by Microsoft. In 1995, the company licensed the commercial version of Internet Explorer 3.0 from Spyglass Mosaic and integrated the program into its Windows 95 OSR1 edition. Later, it included IE4 as the default browser in Windows 98 – a move which continues to raise many antitrust questions.

Firefox is an open-source browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation; anyone who is proficient enough can collaborate in writing and improving its program code. Mozilla is known for its stringent approach to security, promising a bounty of several thousand dollars for any major vulnerability found in the product.

Security incidents and threat response

While no browser is perfect, major security lapses happened rather more frequently with IE than with Firefox. To be fair, Firefox has less than a 10% market share and is thus a rather less enticing target than IE; that’s probably also why security researchers focus much of their attention on the vulnerabilities of Microsoft’s browser, not Firefox’s. Some people have argued that if the market shares were reversed, bugs in Firefox would start appearing on a more frequent basis, as has recently been the case with Internet Explorer.

The open-source architecture of Firefox contributes to the overall safety of the browser; a community of skilled programmers can spot problems more quickly and correct them before a new release is available for general use. It’s been said that threat response time for Firefox averages one week, while it may take months for Microsoft engineers to fix critical bugs reported by security analysts – an unacceptable situation for users who remain unnecessarily vulnerable to exploits (hacker attacks) during that time.