When You Choose Your Browser(s), Is Security Your Main Concern?
Needless to say, this question is crucial. The browser is your connection to the online world, and the more secure it is, the safer you will feel while exploring. However, security doesn’t only depend on the browser itself, but also on your own surfing habits (and on the attackers’ agenda and capabilities, too). Other questions, and respectively their answers, should also be taken into consideration:
- Do you update your browser whenever a new version is available?
- Have you configured your browser updates as automatic?
- Do you use third-party browser add-ons and plugins, and if yes, are you familiar with their developers?
- Do you install third party software from unknown download pages, without paying attention to the Download Agreement?
Before proceeding, we should clarify that downloading software from random websites often ends with an unwanted and persistent extension (add-on), attached to your browser. To avoid downloading bundled packages and compromising both your browser and system, always go slowly through the installation setup and uncheck unwanted apps. Or better – only download from trustworthy sources and spare yourself the headache of removing PUPs.
Now, let’s return to the topic. Besides frequently checking with your own browsing habits, there’s one more thing you should do. Research. Research your browsers prior to using them.
We’re here to help you. Outlining the most secure or relatively the most secure browser has been our priority during the last couple of years:
Before answering the very same question for 2016, we first decided to ask what you, our readers, thought via a poll that was active on our website for 11 days. 603 people participated in our little survey. Perhaps you were one of them?
Here are the results:
- The vast majority of our users believe that Google Chrome is the most secure browser – 49% or 296 votes;
- Next is Mozilla Firefox with 31% of votes, or 187 voters;
- 7% or 43 voters think that Internet Explorer is the safest browser;
- Safari and Opera both got 4% of your trust, or 25 votes;
- Microsoft Edge is next with 3%, or 19 votes;
- Maxthon is perhaps less known and is at the bottom with 1% or 9 votes.
Note. Later on, we added 2 more browsers in our research – Epic Browser and Avira Scout.
So, Which Is The Most Secure Browser for 2016?
A lot of factors are included in making a certain browser secure. The market share of a browser determines how known and trusted it is, as well as how safe the users feel about using it. With a bigger user base of a particular browser, it is more likely for hackers to want to attack those users by finding vulnerabilities to exploit.
The more vulnerabilities and attacks a browser has, the faster its updates should come to the end user. Keeping a browser frequently updated with all newly-found vulnerabilities patched and fixed in time will keep its users happy and secure.
These will also be the main points in terms of which our 2016 research will present the browsers:
- Market share
- Updates frequency
- Add-ons related to security – availability
Note There will be no specific ranking classification as every browser has something unique. The browsers will be positioned by market share, or in other words, the browser with the biggest market share will be analyzed first, and then the rest with fewer shares, in a descending order. Also, the statistics for market shares used in this article have been taken from Net Applications.
Internet Explorer still holds the biggest share on the world market, combined with Microsoft Edge – 43.40%. This is not surprising as the Windows operating system holds around 90% of the current world market for desktop users.
It takes 30 days for an update to be released. This January, support was dropped for IE 8 and IE 10 versions of the web browser, for Windows XP and Windows Vista, respectively. Internet Explorer has InPrivate browsing mode, which will leave no trace of your search queries or history. It also features tracking protection and you can manage add-ons to add an extra layer of security, such as an ad-blocker.
Microsoft Edge holds around 1/6 of the total market share for Windows desktop users. It is the new and improved variant of Internet Explorer.
Updates are inconsistent, but more frequent than those of IE, because new features are still being added. On the 9th of February an update was released fixing a bug with the InPrivate browsing mode. The bug consisted of cached information being available after selecting the private mode.
This March, support was added for extensions in the browser. Engineers working on the browser said that they won’t put a native ad-blocker, because with the extensions being available, it is now possible for users to set one manually if they prefer.
Google’s Chrome browser holds 39.09% of the market share placing it right after the Microsoft browsers. It can even be speculated that soon Google Chrome will overthrow them, becoming the number one browser, preferred by PC users. Google is close to that goal because they tend to fix the vulnerabilities in their browser as soon as possible.
Updates for Chrome come in a 15-day basis, being the browser updated the fastest. Not only that, but those updates become available for all other browsers based on their Chromium project making them more secure. Not only this browser has the fastest updates, it also has one of the fastest load and page-viewing times.
Chromium is open source, so more people working on the code make for faster finding of vulnerabilities. There are no native add-ons for protection included with the browser’s installation, but you can set extensions for blocking ads, Flash etc.
Chrome also has a private browsing mode, called Incognito.
Mozilla Firefox has around 12 years of history, and has become one of the popular and preferred browsers of today. With a market share of 10.54%, the browser has been only growing in terms of community, features and privacy options. With a period of 28 days between updates, Firefox has made a reliable build with only a small window for cyber criminals to exploit new vulnerabilities.
Firefox has a few early access versions helping the community to test new features and find vulnerabilities faster. They are divided into three channels – Nightly, Beta and Developer Edition. Firefox has a Private browsing mode, which also includes tracking protection. It doesn’t come with in-built add-ons, but there are many to choose from, including ad-blockers, Flash blockers, etc.
Firefox is a great all-around browser which comes with fast updates, a user-friendly interface, light usage and is easily modifiable. It also has a virus-check for every download you make.
Apple’s Safari browser holds only 4.87% of all market shares, but that is to be expected. The version available for Windows was discontinued back in 2012, and became obsolete.
Safari has an update period of 54 days. It is a less used browser since the majority of desktop users prefer to use the Windows OS over Mac. Plus, there are a fewer vulnerabilities found in this browser compared to most other popular ones. So the update time is adequate.
Apple, as a company, has always supported privacy and security. Not to wonder that Safari comes with private browsing windows, protection from harmful sites, third-party cookie blocking and a unique sandboxing for websites.
It is argued to this day that Mac and Safari are more secure than Windows and other browsers.
The Opera browser has a 1.66% market share, but it is still a good option to consider for browsing security. 48 days are needed for the developers to send in updates, but much like Safari – fewer vulnerabilities are found all around the board.
Private browsing, pop-up blocking and extensions are all supported by Opera. The browser is also available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.
Opera has always been very innovative. This is the browser that created Tabs and was the first one to implement them.
Other Browsers: Honorable Mentions
All other browsers hold a total of 0.44% market share. The following browsers are honorable mentions, which deserve a spot in this article.
The Maxthon browser gained popularity a few years ago when it was acclaimed the fastest browser at that time with Mozilla Firefox coming in second. The browser actually has more than 10 years of history, but it is not commonly used. Update frequency varies from 3 to 15 days which is relatively fast. The browser can load pages written both in WebKit and Trident rendering engines, while most browsers can read only one of these engine types on HTML5.
Extensions are available for Maxthon and it comes with an in-built ad-blocker program AdBlockPlus.
Maxthon is a cloud browser, making it one of the fastest browsers on the Web. It is also available for a large number of operating systems and device types. Cookies and history are stored locally on each device, so users can wipe clean all of the data easily.
Epic, also known as Epic Privacy Browser is centered exactly on privacy. It is based on Chromium, so update times should be relative to those of Google Chrome. It has limited extension availability to extensions in Epic Webstore. All other extensions are blocked due to privacy concerns.
This browser states to achieve real privacy on the Internet. Including all features other browsers have in terms of private browsing, this one has no DNS and Web cache, no URL check or URL tracker, no error reporting or RLZ-Tracking number. No suggestions and auto-filling options, etc.
The most notable features are the enhanced search protection, comprehensive ad and tracker blocking, and one-click encrypted proxy. Epic browser claims that their proxy makes it impossible for even your Internet search provider or government to track you! How Epic is that?
Avira Scout is the newest addition to browsers built for security. It is based on the Chromium project, so updates should arrive in the same 15 day time frame. It has a mixture of open-source extensions implemented in it. It is made by the developers of Avira Anti-Virus, and uses the database of Avira for a better protection against malicious code across the Internet.
HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger are inside the browser’s code, but hidden in the extensions page. The browser does not collect any data and stops social networks like Facebook and Twitter to track you, as well as all other sites. Even when this browser is only around two months old and still in its Early Access stage, it already looks like the most secure browser of 2016.