Which is the Most Secure Browser?
Think you know which web browser will keep you and your data safe online? The real answer may surprise you.
It turns out that ranking web browser security isn’t all that cut and dried. There are a lot of factors that go into safe browsing online, and when you take them all into account, perhaps no one browser can truly be called the safest.
For example, browser vulnerabilities are a top concern for those in IT today. But just looking at the number of vulnerabilities doesn’t tell you the whole story. By that measure, Opera would be the clear winner by far, with just a fraction of the vulnerabilities each of the other major browsers have. But if you take a closer look you’ll see that the explanation doesn’t lie in Opera’s inherent security; it’s more likely that hackers aren’t wasting their time trying to exploit Opera because it has a market share of only about one percent.
And even for browsers with a larger market share, just having fewer vulnerabilities doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more secure. If a browser has fewer security vulnerabilities, but those vulnerabilities have been around for a while with no fix in the works, how does that make them any safer than other browsers? Hackers will gladly spend their time exploiting old vulnerabilities that no one’s bothering to fix, especially if other browsers are more quick to release security patches and render their work moot.
And vulnerabilities aren’t the only factor in browser security. There’s also the question of open source versus proprietary browsers. Is open source inherently more secure than proprietary software? Proponents argue that closed proprietary software could have surveillance software installed and users would never know it, while the transparent nature of open source software protects against that. But some security experts debate whether open source automatically means better quality, and argue that it depends on the software.
Even if you can pinpoint the most secure browser, using it won’t protect you online completely. But using a browser that will keep you safe from hackers is a good start to staying safe online. Here’s how the most common browsers compare.
Which Is the Most Secure Browser?
With every website you visit, you’re vulnerable to hackers out to steal your personal information. In the last year, the top 5 most popular web browsers had, on average, 186 vulnerabilities.
According to a 2013 Kapersky Security study, 93.01% of online attacks came from malicious URLs, and US users had an online infection risk of 38.1%. So which browser should you use to keep your information secure?
Which Are the Most Popular Browsers by Market Share?
Adobe research shows Chrome has overtaken IE as the most popular browser in the US:
Browser US Market Share
- Google Chrome 31.8%
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 30.9%
- Apple Safari 25%
- Mozilla Firefox 8.7%
- Opera 4.4%
Which Browser Had the Most Discovered Vulnerabilities in 2013?
According to the Secunia Vulnerability Review 2014, based on an anonymous sample of millions of private computers with the Secunia Personal Software Inspector installed, Mozilla Firefox had the highest number of vulnerabilities.
|Browser||Number of Vulnerabilities Discovered||% of Unpatched Users|
|Microsoft Internet Explorer||126||12%|
However, Secunia’s figures don’t account for vulnerability severity, open and closed source browsers, or-the most crucial factor in determining security-patch response times. According to Pwn2Own statistics, Chrome has the fastest response to threats of all browsers: 15 days.
How to Secure Your Browser Despite Vulnerabilities
You can make your browser more secure by following these steps.
- Update your browser regularly.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware protection
Getting a Secure Browser That Works for You
Just because a browser appears more secure on paper, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s the best browser for you. An up-to-date browser is often your best bet for staying safe and protecting your data. By incorporating one or more of the following add-ons, you can stay with your current browser and avoid unfamiliar software.
- Webutation (Firefox, Chrome) Collects data on websites and provides a score to help you gauge how safe it is
- Disconnect (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari) Exposes tracking requests sent by websites giving you the option to allow them or not
- Do Not Track Me (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari) Collects data on tracking cookies and scripts and allows them to disabled via a toolbar
Make use of browser privacy enhancing capabilities Update your browser regularly and use anti-virus and anti-spyware protection
The Browsers Built for Privacy
A number of browsers purpose-built for privacy are on the market. Of the top 3, WhiteHat’s Aviator is the most secure.
|Browser||No communication with Google||Ad-blocker by default||Blocks tracking software by default||Stops auto playing of media files||Blocks third-party cookies||Private browsing by default||Phishing & malware protection by default|
According to a test comparison of Aviator and Chrome by online security expert Russ McRee, Aviator had:
- 120% less host contact than Chrome
- 69% less file interaction (download of certs, gifs, etc.)
- 86% fewer images presented i.e. advertisements
- 69% fewer DNS lookups
Arguably, the most secure browser is the one that is most responsive to patching vulnerabilities.
Time is often the crucial factor in determining whether malware has a minimal or global effect. Like a viral pandemic, malware attacks grow with the number of susceptible victims. This goes to show that, when it comes to secure browsing, it’s not just about impregnable browsers, but vigilant developers and users.
- Accuvant Browser Report – accuvant.com
- Aviator – alternativeto.net
- Heartbleed Bug Will Cost Millions – theguardian.com
- Heartbleed Bug – theguardian.com
- Consumer Privacy – truste.com
- The Safest Web Browser – tiptopsecurity.com
- Firefox Is Still the Least Secure Web Browser, Falls to Four Zero-day Exploits at Pwn2Own – extremetech.com
- Three Privacy Focused Browsers Compared – cnet.com
- Five Must-have Security Browser Add-ons – techrepublic.com
- Three Browser Extensions to Improve Your Privacy Online – pcworld.com
- Which Browser Should You Use? – pcworld.com
- Stop Using Safari – forbes.com
- The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets – online.wsj.com
- Browse This: Oryon C Portable & WhiteHat Aviator – holisticinfosec.blogspot.co.uk
- ADI Report: Google Controls the Browser Worldwide – cmo.com
- Statistics Impact Heartbleed – securityaffairs.com
- Secunia Vulnerability Review 2014 – secunia.com
- The Top 500 Sites on the Web – alexa.com
Download this infographic.