Firefox Surfers More Likely Patched Than IE Users
New statistics released today indicate that people who use Mozilla's Firefox Web browser are more likely to be cruising the Web with all of the latest security updates installed than those surfing with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Internet Security vendor Secunia came to that conclusion by analyzing the results of some 4.9 million programs scanned by its "software inspector" -- a free tool which can scan your PC for missing security updates for about 30 of the most commonly installed desktop applications. Secunia found that 1.4 million of those applications were lacking in critical security patches released by their respective vendors.
Comparing browsers, Secunia looked at Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera, and found that Firefox 2 was the least vulnerable, with just 5.19 percent of all Firefox 2 installations missing security updates. In contrast, the tool found that 11.96 percent of all Opera 9.x installations were missing security updates, while the numbers for IE6 and IE7 were 9.61 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. Since Secunia's tool is designed to scan Windows applications, it did not test how many Safari Web browser users were up to date, which is too bad.
From where I sit, this research suggests two things. One, that the auto-patching component built into Firefox 2.0 is somewhat more effective than Microsoft's approach, which gives users the option to decline updates. With Firefox 2.0, new updates are automatically installed. IE patches are disseminated along with the rest of the security updates for Windows, via whatever mechanism the user has specified -- usually either automatic updates or manually.
Secondly, it appears that while Opera fans are seemingly always quick to claim that theirs is the most secure and least-attacked of the major browsers, its user base may be a bit more complacent about applying security updates.
Incidentally, Secunia's stats for Firefox users pair pretty closely with those for visitors of the Security Fix blog. According to the stats I compiled in a report for today's visitors (see the graph on the left for a detailed breakdown), slightly less than 4 percent of all visitors are coming to the site with outdated (unpatched) versions of Firefox. Our site statistics page obviously can't tell whether IE users who visit the blog are up to date on the latest patches, but overall, 70 percent of those who read Security Fix do so using IE6 or IE7, whereas roughly 25 percent drop by with some version of Firefox.
The browser debates are what really make most readers' blood boil, but another stat in the Secunia report is perhaps a bit more worrisome: The number of people who use unpatched movie and music players. Secunia found that nearly 27 percent of Winamp users were missing critical security updates, while more than 33 percent of Quicktime 7 installations were outdated.
If you haven't yet done so, take advantage of Secunia's software inspector. Then come back here and tell us how you fared.
May 16, 2007; 4:16 PM ET
Categories: From the Bunker , Latest Warnings , Safety Tips
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