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Google Chrome leads the browser pack at preventing phishing, study finds

For blocking socially engineered malware, however, Google's browser takes the No. 2 spot.

Phishing attacks are an all-too-common threat on the Internet today, but among the top browsers Google's Chrome does the best job of preventing them.

That's according to a recent study by security research firm NSS Labs, the results of which were published on Wednesday.

"The average phishing URL catch rate for browsers over the entire 10 day test period ranged from 90 percent for Firefox (version 15) to 94 percent for Chrome (version 21)," NSS explained in its report. The chart below depicts the firm's results.

Socially engineered malware

Of course, given that the study had a margin of error of about 2 percent, the difference among the browsers on the phishing dimension isn't exactly striking. That, in turn, led NSS to conclude that "one must consider other factors, such as socially engineered malware blocking capabilities, for qualitative differences in the security effectiveness of the browsers."

Last month, in fact, the company published a separate report focusing on socially engineered malware. According to the results of that study, Internet Explorer 10 led the pack with a mean malware block rate of 99.1 percent, followed by Chrome 21, with 70.4 percent.

Firefox 15 and Safari 5 lagged far behind in this respect, both blocking less than 5 percent.

50,000 phishing sites every month

Socially engineered malware and phishing attacks are the two biggest threats facing Internet users today, NSS says, dwarfing both drive-by downloads and clickjacking in prevalence and severity.

Some 50,000 phishing sites are now detected every month, compared with fewer than 40,000 in 2011.

The browsers' big challenge now is to detect and block phishing sites quickly, NSS says, particularly given that the average uptime for sites linked to phishing attacks in 2012 is just 23 hours, down from a high of 73 hours in 2010.

"With phishing sites now rotating at a much faster pace, it is critical for browsers to identify and block sites more rapidly," NSS explains.

On that dimension, Firefox 15 had the fastest average block time of just 2.35 hours, while the others ranged from 5.38 to 6.11 hours. The zero-hour block rates for the browsers tested against brand new malicious URLs ranged from Chrome 21, at 53.2 percent, to Safari 5, at 79.2 percent.

NSS Labs' full phishing report can be downloaded for free in PDF form from the company's site.

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