Archives: No Web Browser is Completely Secure

Originally published in April 2011
Simon Nguyen

Web browser is probably the most important software application of the Internet Age. People use web browser to surf the web, send email, and search for information. In the current marketplace, a healthy amount of web browser choices is available to users. Most of the software can be obtained free of charge and almost all of them include top-notch features.

The only thing that separates one browser from another is the level of security. For a majority of web users, security is unquestionably the most important feature as people are always concerned about their privacy. Since a tremendous amount of private information is processed by web browsers everyday, people won't be comfortable exploring the web if the content and integrity of the information are not adequately protected. This is the reason why developers of web browsers are competing hard for the right to declare its software as the most secure.

Microsoft was the first company to tout its software, Internet Explorer (IE), as the most secure browser. But this claim was somewhat hindered by the company's monopoly on the web browser market. At its peak, IE captured over 95% of the market. In another word, there weren't many browsers in the market to compete with IE in the first place.

Firefox was the next web browser to tout its security prowess. Supporters of the open-source software cited the low volume of malware/virus reports, in relative to that of Internet Explorer, as evidence that Firefox is the most secure web browser. Firefox quickly became the darling of the World Wide Web and the default alternative to IE. But as the web browser gains more popularity and market share, the number of malware/virus reports attributed to Firefox has been increasing at an alarming rate. The latest web browser to stake claim to the title of the most secure browser was Chrome. 

The three popular web browsers share a similar pattern. The bigger the share of the market the more vulnerable a web browser is to viruses and malware. The reason why Firefox and Chrome initially enjoyed few incidents of viruses and malware was because their market share at the time was small, in the range of 2-5%. Hackers and authors of viruses saw no benefits in targeting these web browsers, whose user base was insignificant in number. Instead, they chose to target IE and its enormous user base and thus the high number of incidents attributed to Internet Explorer. When Firefox and Chrome became more popular, they grew to be new targets for rogue individuals. In other words, all three web browsers have become victims of their own successes.

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