Chrome improves anti-malware blocking score by 340%

But Microsoft's IE9 stymies seven times more dangerous URLs

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Safari also scored 7.6%, down 3.4 percentage points from last year.

Moy attributed Chrome's improved score to the additional protection Google added to version 12 of the browser in early June. That edition -- and the current "stable" channel build of Chrome 13 -- flags dodgy files when users download some file types on the Safe Browsing blacklist.

NSS Labs was less certain why Firefox's score fell so dramatically.

"The deterioration in protection may be attributed to a more standardized implementation of the new Safe Browsing API v2 or evasion tactics being used by cybercriminals to which Firefox has not yet adapted," the company's report said.

Moy suspects that Chrome's higher score when compared to Firefox and Safari -- which both also rely on Smart Browsing for their malware blocking -- may also be partly due to tweaks Google's made to its implementation of the API, or to the others' slower response to changes.

"The numbers [for all three] are close enough, actually, but Google put a little extra in their product," said Moy in an interview Monday. "And I wouldn't be surprised if Google held some things back [from Mozilla and Firefox]."

The study's margin of error was around 3%, said Moy.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft touted IE9's numbers. In lieu of any real improvement in its overall score, the browser's head of marketing highlighted other aspects of NSS Labs' report.

"The average time taken by SmartScreen filter to block a threat has gotten 28% faster...and if Application Reputation is considered, then the average time has improved by 85%," said Roger Capriotti, the director of IE product marketing, on a company blog yesterday.

Comparisons of IE9's "average time to block" scores in NSS Labs' reports from 2010 and this year confirmed Capriotti's claims.

Moy attributed Microsoft's test dominance to several factors.

"They're using both a blacklist and a whitelist, which is significant," said Moy, referring to SmartScreen Filter and App Rep, respectively. The [antivirus] guys have been talking about this for two years. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that maybe we should use both."

And thanks to the telemetric data provided by Windows, Microsoft also has far more information at its fingertips than other browser makers when it comes to direct feedback on sites or files that cause IE or Windows to crash.

"Think how many desktops IE is on," said Moy, talking about the browser's share of the global market. "They get feedback that others don't."

NSS' malware blocking report can be downloaded from the company's website (download PDF). Unlike previous reports, which Microsoft sponsored, the newest was not paid for by the Redmond, Wash. developer, Moy said.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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