The browser is how most people access the Internet, and with the proliferation of malware online today, it is one of the first lines of defense in helping to protect systems.
Each new browser version can offer new capabilities, protections, and fixes for vulnerabilities. This means that a newer browser is often safer than its predecessor. It turns out, Microsoft Malware Protection Center’s data analysis reinforces this theory.
Computer security professionals often remind people to regularly update their software, and Microsoft makes it easy to update our products, including Internet Explorer through Microsoft Update. Similarly, other top browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox try to keep people updated with the latest versions. However, as past Security Intelligence Reports have shown, many systems today are not taking advantage of the latest protections by upgrading their browsers and other applications to the most recent versions.
While we’re told to update, actual measurements of the risk have been scarce. A risk ratio analysis of the default browser on machines protected by Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender, helps to show how different versions of browsers perform in the real world.
For the month of November, we compared the risk of running different browser versions set as the default browser in Windows. In total, there were 219 different browser filenames. 34 of those were on over 10,000 different computers. But the most important data showed just how much less risk there was on more recent versions of the most popular browsers.
We built Internet Explorer 11 to be our safest browser ever, and it includes the most advanced protections to date. This chart show how effective it has been in helping to protect systems. If you’re still running Internet Explorer 6, upgrading to Internet Explorer 11 gives 14x less risk of an active malware encounter, as you can see in the chart above.
The risk ratios that compare the active malware encounter probability for each browser to the rest of the population. The average risk for all users is a 100% risk ratio, so lower than 100% is safer, over 100% means it’s more likely that active malware will be encountered.
And best of all, upgrading your browser costs nothing. This data reinforces the importance of running an up-to-date browser. With the increase internet usage over the holidays, I strongly encourage people to upgrade to the latest browser to help protect against malware.