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Senior U.S. Correspondent

Chrome is Most Secure of the Top Three Browsers, Study Finds

Dec 09, 20112 mins
BrowsersChromeData and Information Security

Internet Explorer takes second place while Firefox comes in third, Accuvant reports.

Even as Mozilla’s Firefox browser has been surrounded by uncertainty in recent weeks, Chrome seems to be having a very good month.

Not only did Google’s software officially surpass Firefox to assume the No. 2 position in market share last week, but today it was named the most secure of the top three browsers by security firm Accuvant.

“Both Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer implement state-of-the-art anti-exploitation technologies, but Mozilla Firefox lags behind without JIT hardening,” the company explains in a 100-page study.

Chrome’s plug-in security and sandboxing architectures, meanwhile, are “implemented in a more thorough and comprehensive manner,” making it “the browser that is most secured against attack,” Accuvant says.

The study was commissioned by Google, but its results and the tools and data behind it are available online for inspection.

Internet Explorer at No. 2

Whereas many browser security comparisons focus on metrics such as vulnerability report counts and URL blacklists, Accuvant put its emphasis instead on anti-exploitation techniques.

On five key characteristics, for example–vulnerability patching, safe browsing API, sandboxing, JIT hardening, and plug-in architecture–Chrome offered a “first-rate implementation,” Accuvant found.

Internet Explorer came in second due to deficiencies in its implementation of sandboxing and JIT hardening, while Firefox came in last of the three for failing to implement those two key features altogether.

Faster Patches

Chrome was also the most frequently updated of the three browsers, Accuvant found, and it patched vulnerabilities most quickly, with an average patch time of just 53 days compared with Firefox’s 158 and Internet Explorer’s 214.

Accuvant analyzed the three browsers–which together account for more than 93 percent of the market, it says–while running in a Windows 7 environment.

The results of the study largely echo those from this year’s Pwn2Own hack event, from which Chrome emerged unscatched.

Top Choice for Security

I still think there are philosophical reasons for sticking with Firefox, and I don’t think it’s in danger of fading away, as some have suggested. Meanwhile, for the security-minded, there’s also BitBox, the security-enhanced version of Firefox I wrote about earlier this year.

Nevertheless, the more data emerges, the more it looks like–of the big three–Chrome is the top choice for security.