You might be surprised at which Web browser aced this security test

Microsoft IE9 blew away Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari in new tests by NSS Labs to measure the ability of web browsers to block malware and catch click fraud.

NSS subjected Apple Safari 5, Google Chrome 15-19, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and Mozilla Firefox 7-13 to over 3 million test runs against over 84,000 URLs determined to be active and malicious out of a unique sample set of 227,841. Out of 750,000 test cases per browser, NSS labs found in its 75-day review that IE9's malware block rate was 95%, whle Firefox and Safari trailed far behind at 6% apiece and Chrome was somewhere in the middle, with its rate varying from 13% to 74%.

(IE and Chrome are neck and neck, by the way, for the global lead in Web browser share, followed by Firefox and Safari.)

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The NSS "Is your Browser Putting You at Risk?" report conclude that users should "evaluate browser security as part of their layered security strategy."

NSS Labs says browser protection entails an "'in-the-cloud' reputation-based system that scours the Internet for malicious websites and categorizes content accordingly, either by adding it to a black or white list, or assigning a score (depending on the vendor's approach)." When a browser detects a site as "bad," it will re-direct the user to a warning message or page informing them that the URL is malicious. Sometimes the browser will instruct the user that content is malicious or should be cancelled, the report says.

NSS Labs also says its testing determined that the SafeBrowsing API 2.0, which provides reputation services for executable files (otherwise called "malicious downloads"), has been integrated into Chrome but not Firefox or Safari.

NSS Labs also tested the browsers for protection against click fraud, a crime that abuses pay-per-click advertising through use of malware infection. Click fraud "causes minimal direct harm to the typical end user, as the ultimate target is the ad buyer," the NSS Labs report points out.

According to the testing, the click-fraud catch rates are as follows: IE9 at 96.6%, followed by Chrome at 1.6%, Firefox at 0.8% and Safari at 0.7%. The lab notes the average lifespan of a click fraud URL was 32 hours with over 50% expiring within 54 hours.

NSS Labs recommends that ad buyers "put pressure on Google to increase the click fraud protection capabilities of Chrome and the SafeBrowsing API."

NSS Labs is making its browser-security test reports available for free here and here.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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