Results of a web browser testing done to check the ability of four leading browsers to protect against leading forms of malware was released yesterday by NSS Labs. The tests were carried out on Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari to determine how they fared when it came to offer protection against malware linked to bank fraud, password theft, fake antivirus scams and click fraud.

Results highlighted that Internet Explorer offered users significant advantages pertaining to overall malware protection, preventing 95 percent of malicious activity; Chrome blocked only 33 percent, Safari and Firefox less than 6 percent each. Click fraud malware was blocked at a significantly lower rate by 3 out of the 4 browsers tested. Here again, the results highlighted that Internet Explorer continued to do better than the others by blocking 96.6 percent of click fraud activity; Chrome managed only 1.6 percent, Firefox and Safari blocked only 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. Block rate scores were calculated as 10-day moving averages.

cover (Image credit: Getty Images)

IE, the safest? (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Given Chrome’s prominence and increasing market share, we predict ongoing increases in click fraud unless Google takes serious steps to improve its click fraud protection,” said Dr Stefan Frei, Research Director, at NSS Labs

It was found in the tests that click fraud scammers managed to rake in revenue for both fraudsters as well as legitimate ad networks, by making counterfeit ad click-throughs look genuine.

Some of the key findings of the report revealed that click fraud by itself causes minimal direct harm to the typical end user, since the ultimate target is the ad buyer. What actually harmed consumers and corporate users was the additional malware that came as a by-product of click fraud installation. Click fraud the detection rate of Chrome was 1.6 percent, Firefox 0.8 percent, Internet Explorer strikingly high at 96.6 percent, and Safari 0.7 percent. Further, the report highlighted that certain services may help ad buyers identify click fraud. However, service contracts with ad networks may contain clauses that restrict ad buyers’ ability to recover damages for click fraud.

Interestingly, the report revealed that the average lifespan of a click fraud URL was 32 hours with over 50 percent of them expiring within 54 hours. NSS Labs' study was performed over a period of 175 days (from December 2, 2011 to May 25, 2012) about the protection capabilities of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Each browser was tested with all available updates installed on identical virtual machines running Microsoft Windows 7.

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