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Internet Explorer 10 continues to outperform the other browsers with a block rate against malware of 99.96 percent, new research shows.

Web browsers continue to be a main security point in fighting against malware and NSS Labs conducted an analysis of the security evaluating protection offered by the five main browsers: Safari 5, Chrome 25/26, Internet Explorer 10, Firefox 19 and Opera 12 against malware downloads.

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While Chrome’s malware download protection improved significantly — rising to more than 83 percent from 70 percent in NSS’ October 2012 comparative test — Internet Explorer 10 was tops at the 99.96 percent rate.

Safari, Firefox and Opera continue to lag far behind Chrome and Internet Explorer with overall block rates of 10.16 percent, 9.92 percent and 1.87 percent respectively.

Cyber Security

Google and Microsoft utilize application reputation services to enhance their general URL blocking capabilities.

While Chrome saw a larger jump in its overall block rate, up 13 percent from the last test period, this leap only brought Chrome up to the same levels of protection as Internet Explorer without the added application reputation. Microsoft IE’s block rate jumped 16.79 percent with the addition of its Application Reputation service, taking it to the 99.96 percent number.

Google’s Safe Browsing API v2 includes additional application reputation-based download protection that integrates into Chrome, but not into Firefox or Safari and the results speak for themselves.

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. Without the application reputation service, Chrome, Firefox and Safari all have block rates around 10 percent.

While Application Reputation itself can be a highly effective technology, it is also prone to false positives and user error. Perfectly good software, but virtually unknown, may end up blocked and highly malicious software engineered to have excellent reputational aspects may evade protection.

It’s important to note that Chrome relies upon its application reputation protection almost four times as often as Internet Explorer just to achieve the same protection rates as Internet Explorer achieves without application reputation.

Because unique malware attacks through infected web pages are often live for only short periods of time, the faster a web browser can detect and block a malware attack, the better.

“Web browsers remain the primary infection vector for most consumers and enterprises,” said Randy Abrams, research director at NSS Labs. “Improving the browser’s malware block rate substantially impacts one’s security profile. Both Google’s Download Protection and Microsoft’s App Rep allow users to override browser protecting, however, Google relies on this less reliable protection mechanism nearly four times as often as does Microsoft. The net result is that IE 10 users are offered superior protection over Chrome users with one quarter the risk of making a bad download decision. Firefox, Safari, and Opera users are afforded little protection at all by their browsers.”

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