Internet Explorer Malware Detection Rated Better Than Firefox, Safari and Chrome


web browser security

Recent tests by NSS labs has shown the Microsoft’s Internet Explorer beats all other leading browsers when it comes to malware detection. The tests carried out by NSS have shown that Internet Explorer boasts a 99.9 percent blockage rate for what is referred to as “socially engineered malware”.

The tests have shown that Internet Explorer’s utilisation of application reputation technology has put them at the forefront of detecting particular types of malware. URL filters also provide extra protection for users and these technologies together gave a block rate higher than that of the leading web browser competitors such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

The tests, shown on the NSS website here, focus specifically on socially engineered malware – a term testers use to describe malicious code that is downloaded by the user through trickery and deceit. This usually comes in the form of a malicious link in some form of communication that is clicked by the user – the malware, or payload, is delivered as soon as this link is executed. The tests utilised a selection of different malware with malicious links and ads, however, the test excluded payloads delivered via email attachments.

The results of the tests are pretty conclusive, Internet Explorer received a 99.9% blockage rate for the crafty socially engineered malicious code, with Google’s Chrome web browser scoring a 70% detection rate and Firefox and Safari scoring a lowly 4%. This is primarily due to the lack of application reputation components for Firefox and Safari, and the additional components of this and URL filtering for Microsoft and Google.

Although both browsers utilise these technologies, Microsoft has a heavy emphasis on URL filtering, the opposite of what Google has. Testers at NSS labs studied both the malicious code and the browsers to determine differences in detection, and it was evident that Microsoft had implemented an effective balance of URL filtering and application reputation components to ensure that socially engineered malware such as this is easily detected.

These recent test results may be a blow for Google, who have dropped significantly in malware detection rates since their previous 83% scoring. This may be due to a lowering of reliance on the application reputation component, due to a lack of usability in the process. For example, users may have complained about the browser preventing legitimate downloads so Google had to reduce the severity of the browser, allowing more users to download potentially more dangerous files by default. Additionally, it is not uncommon for hackers to reverse engineer how the browser detects malicious code and adapt malware appropriately to avoid detection. Either way, Chrome is lacking behind IE in the current rankings.

As well as the big 4 web browsers, NSS labs conducted further research on web browsers across the globe. The Liebao Browser, developed in China by AV company Kingsoft, boasted a high detection rate of 85% under the same tests. The company take a different approach to malware detection, utilising cloud services to enhance their malware detection for downloads. The popular Chinese browser also uses URL filtering, similarly to Chrome and IE, however, combines this with cloud-based malware detection technology.

Recent statistics indicate that Internet Explorer holds nearly a 60% market share, with Chrome and Firefox tailing behind on a little over 17% each. The rest of the browsers have a small share of the browser market between them, a trend that looks set to continue in light of Microsoft’s enhanced security results.

But what exactly is application reputation technology?

Application reputation is a component within a web browser that checks the genuineness of download links and provides users with a warning when files or download links are not reputable. For example, Internet Explorer’s malware detection system relies on SmartScreen to identify, categorise and provide warnings to users when files are not trusted.

About Lee Hazell

Lee Hazell is a cyber security consultant with a keen interest in anything tech or security related. Follow Lee on .

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