Skip to comments.Internet Explorer 9 hammers rivals in download blocking test
Posted on 07/18/2011 8:39:44 AM PDT by for-q-clinton
The in-house reputation system used in Internet Explorer 8 and 9 is markedly superior at blocking social-engineering attacks than the Google equivalent used by Chrome, Firefox, Apples Safari, an independent test by NSS Labs has found.
Rating the browsers against a sample set of European malware URLs over 19 days in April, IE 8 achieved a mean block rate of 90 percent, leaving Chrome 10, Firefox 4 and Safari 5 in the dust on 13 percent each. Opera, which uses technology from antivirus company AVG, came in last on 5 percent.
When assessing IE 9 with application filtering turned on, the results were even more dramatic, taking that version to a mean blocking rate of 100 percent.
Internet Explorers positive showing appears to be thanks to two embedded technologies; Smartscreen URL Filter, a cloud-based system that checks URLs against a master database. This is present in both IE 8 and 9 and seems to work more or less identically in both.
In addition, IE 9 has added a second system, SmartScreen Application Reputation which on the basis of this test offers browser users a remarkably effective level of download block protection. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all use a rival URL checking system, Googles Safe Browser Feed, which as previous NSS Labs tests have suggested, is now falling some way behind.
The significance of Microsofts new application reputation technology cannot be overstated. Application Reputation is the first attempt by any vendor to create a definitive list of every application on the Internet, the authors conclude.
Browsers provide a layer of protection against socially-engineered malware, in addition to endpoint protection products; as this report shows, not all are created equal. The overall lower protection offered by Firefox, Safari, and Chrome is concerning.
An extra but important dimension also tested was the average response time to block malware, basically the time it took each browser to add a problem site to the block list once it had been fed in to the test by NSS Labs.
Again, IE 9 with Application Reputation enabled gained a perfect score, adding a site without any delay, the only browser to manage such a feat. Interestingly, however, without the Application layer, IE 8 and 9 sank down the table, taking nearly 14 and 16 hours respectively, behind Safaris five hours, Chromes nearly seven hours, and Firefoxs 8 hours.
Block time is worth paying attention to because the longer protection takes to be activated, the longer the window of possible exposure.
The limitation of the report is that it is only measuring one dimension of the threat users face when using browsers, that of attacks where the user can be tricked - socially-engineered in security parlance - into downloading malware. This compares with what are called drive-by attacks that seek to exploit specific vulnerabilities in software and which require no user intervention.
Which is more dangerous is a matter of debate although NSS Labs references a separate study by AVG that found socially-engineered attacks to be the most likely way for malware to find its way on to a users PC.
A social engineering attack has the advantage that it recruits the user to agree to a download event thereby potentially bypassing Windows controls such as User Access Control (UAC) and even the warnings of antivirus software. A drive-by attack, especially one manipulating a zero-day flaw, can sneak on to the PC without any of these defences being aware but requires more engineering effort to work.
The claim that socially-engineered attacks are the more significant doesnt entirely accord with the admittedly patchy evidence that exists on the subject.
A recent and revealing assessment by Qualys using its Browsercheck tool found that large numbers of browser users routinely run out-of-date plug-ins for interfaces such as Flash Adobe Reader and especially Java. Many of these have significant flaws that can be attacked by drive-by exploits.
It could be that both sides of this coin social-engineering attacks and drive-by attacks are equally perilous but in different ways.
A final qualification is that the test was conducted on Firefox 4, since supplanted by the rapid-development replacement, version 5.0, likewise Google Chrome, which has reached version 13. The URL-filtering systems used by these are, however the same as in the previous versions so would be unlikely to make a difference to their blocking performance.
Correct. That’s the tough thing MS has to fix. They can’t hide behind low number of users to keep from being socially engineered. Max OSX had the luxury of hiding for years, but now they are more popular so they too are getting attacked. The dumb user is the biggest problem, but the dumb user only hears Mac is secure that virus won’t run on a Mac. So they buy a mac and they have the same issue.
To protect their market Microsoft HAS to protect the dumb user from themselves. Me I never had an issue with IE and Windows, but then again I’m not a dumb user. But I’ve had many dumb users ask me to fix their stuff.
IE9 is considered more HTML5 compliant than Chrome or Firefox (last I heard). I know there is some dispute over these findings, but http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/ie9_outperforms_other_browsers_for_html5_complianc.php but still you can’t deny IE9 isn’t taking HTML5 seriously.
IE9 also blocks all of my legitimate downloads, my banking site and most PDF downloads.
Browsers leapfrog for compatibility, stability, security, speed and malware detection. IE 9 is definitely better than the past versions of IE.
Still not enough to have me switch back.
Really? It hasn’t blocked any of mine. And I go to several banking sites, BA, Chase, Citi, USAA, Wells Fargo, etc...
Yes, ING Bank.
Frustrating. It doesn't work on my iPad (Safari) either.
I have to go to FF to make a transfer. [Safari classic on my iPad also crashes Google Adsense reports.]
There have been a few other transactional or interactive sites where IE has failed me but I cannot recall any of the URIs at the moment.
Also Standard Bank doesn't work for me with IE9 either.
I just did the standard bank one...and it *appeared* to work for me. I did have to put it in compatibility mode though. CLick the little broken page at the right of the address bar by the refresh symbol.
I’ll try that tomorrow when I’m back on my own PC.