Internet Explorer vulnerabilities surge to record levels in 2014, NVD figures reveal

Bromium analysis plots rise after IE 11's appearance

Microsoft's Internet Explorer experienced a record number of software vulnerabilities in the first half of 2014, far above any other popular program, a Bromium analysis of US National Vulnerability Database (NVD) figures has shown.

Checking Bromium's numbers from the NVD, it looks as if IE's flow of public software flaws has roughly doubled, reaching 133 for the first half of 2014, up on the 130 recorded for the whole of 2013.

Other browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have each experienced only 50 or so public vulnerabilities in the same six months, compared to nearly 200 for the whole of 2013 for Chrome and 150 for Firefox. This is an unexpected turn of events; IE has gone from being significantly better than its rivals to being significantly worse.

It has also suffered three zero-day flaws so far in 2014, identical to Firefox, but more than Chrome which has not experienced any.

What about other programs such as Adobe's Flash Player and Reader, Microsoft's Office, and public enemy number one, Java? So far, Java seems to be the major winner, recording 50 flaws, about half the rate of 2013. Surprisingly given its previous woeful record, it has not experienced a single zero-day issue so far in 2014, having recorded 11 in 2013.

"Much attention was paid to Java exploits in 2013 and countermeasures such as disabling Java may have had a role in forcing attackers to switch to new targets this year. Regardless of the causes, zero day exploits in Java have experienced a recent lull in activity. Time will tell," said Bromium's researchers.

Flash, Reader and Office all seem to be trending a bit below the vulnerability rate for 2013 while suffering the same small batch of zero days.

Bromium doesn't offer an explanation for IE's surge in vulnerabilities but one possibility is that the release of version 11 last October offered up new vulnerabilities. Microsoft does at least appear to be patching IE11 more rapidly than past versions, the firm notes. For IE 7, 8, and 9 (between 2007 and 2011) Microsoft took an unbelievable 80+ days to issue the first patch; for IE10 this dropped to around 13 days, and for IE11 it was under five days.

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