A bit of a row has grown up over the veracity of a study into the effectiveness of browsers against malware.
Research firm NSS Labs published a study [PDF] last week on the effectiveness of browsers blocking socially-engineered malware, which NSS describes as "a web page link that directly leads to a download that delivers a malicious payload whose content type would lead to execution, or more generally a website known to host malware links."
The research found that when it came to these kinds of attacks Internet Explorer was by far the most effective browser. IE9 stopped 99 per cent of the attacks, with IE8 blocking nine out of ten. The next nearest browser was Firefox 3.6 at 19 per cent, Safari 5 at 11 per cent and Chrome 6 just three per cent.
The study was funded by Microsoft, which apparently had veto over the results had it wanted it but allowed NSS to publish them anyway. It's not hard to understand why.
Google however took umbrage at the research announcement and issued a statement to the press saying that the testing process was flawed and an outdated version of the Chrome browser was used.
"As we've stated previously, these sponsored tests are limited in their sole focus on socially engineered malware, while excluding vulnerabilities in plug-ins or browsers themselves," said a Google spokesperson.
"Google Chrome was built with security in mind from the beginning and emphasises protection of users from drive-by downloads and plug-in vulnerabilities, for example, we recently introduced a new security sandbox for Flash Player."
NSS is a reputable research firm with a strong team, but funded research, particularly on a topic like this, is controversial. Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs, interrupted his Sunday to intervene in the debate.
"The data doesn't support Chrome being 'more secure' (i.e. less vulnerable) than other browsers," he wrote in the company blog.
"We do sincerely applaud the innovations and bug bounties though, and encourage all vendors to build more security in."
He pointed out that at the time of the tests Chrome 6 was the latest version of Google's browser, and neither of the revisions, nor the sandboxing, added the extra security needed to block the threats.
As ever with these security surveys Watchdog advises checking the data first, but this tightly-focussed survey seems to be valid.
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