Browser ranking on malware report

New test results showing comparisons of Web browser protection against socially engineered malware has one analyst a bit surprised to see Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer 9 leading with such a significant discrepancy above other well known browsers.

The report is from Carlsbad, Calif.-based independent tester NSS Labs Inc. for Q3 2011 and indicates a mean block rate for socially engineered malware of 96 per cent for IE9. Chrome 12 at 13.2 per cent, Firefox 4 at 7.6 per cent, Safari 5 at 7.6 per cent and Opera 11 at 6.1 per cent.  

James Quin, lead research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Inc., said he has no reason to believe the research was compromised, however, he thinks IE9’s success rate is a tad high compared to others.

“I’m not by any stretch of the imagination suggesting that it’s a faulty testing paradigm. But it seems unusual,” said Quin.

It’s not that IE9 shouldn’t be scoring in the nineties, said Quin. It’s that the other browsers scored so “radically low.”

“I would have expected everybody to be relatively high,” said Quin.

Rick Moy, president and CEO with NSS Labs, who said the independent test was not sponsored by Microsoft, explained that the test methodology is the same applied across browsers, end point and anti-virus software.

Previous tests from NSS Labs have shown that Internet Explorer has had favourable results. “IE has consistently done well in the browsers testing,” said Moy.

The remaining browsers, said Moy, are “pretty consistent” in terms of ranking.

NSS Labs uses a large network of machines placed across 37 countries along with automated honey pots. As part of the test, end users try to get their machines infected by visiting risky sites such as ware sites and signing up for lists.

“Every six hours, we take the latest cut of bad URLs and throw them against a product and see how well it does against protection,” said Moy of the methodology.

Reputation filtering technology, said Quin, has become essential on the “modern war on malware” where all security providers offer a malware filtering component in their portfolios.

“Rep filtering is a big deal,” said Quin.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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