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Are you operating on a secure browser?

How many people give their Internet browsers much thought? Chances are that unless they’re directly involved in the IT industry, and the Internet is like mother’s milk to them, not many people do. This means that when new upgrades come out, many consumers are likely to ignore them. Even when they are prompted repeatedly, many people simply neglect to make the change.

Google, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and IBM joined forces to determine just how safely the billions of Internet users in the world are surfing the virtual wave. The study was conducted over 18 months using “non-personally identifiable” information from Google’s user database. Complete anonymity has been assured.

The study found that most users, 59% to be exact, have upgraded to the latest available versions of their browser. But according to IT professionals, the fact that 41% of users haven’t upgraded, and are using outdated technology, is rather worrying. Old browsers are more vulnerable to attacks than upgraded versions, and the problems experienced can be more difficult to fix.

The study also analysed how individual browsers are affected by user upgrades. Of the main browsers included in the study – Internet Explorer E7, Firefox 2, Safari 3 and Opera 9 – Firefox users were the most up-to-date. Internet Explorer had the lowest number of conversions, despite the fact that it has the highest number of users.

Researchers have speculated that the manner in which upgrades are presented could play an important role in whether they are adopted or not. Firefox for instance, has a quick one-click upgrade system, while Opera (which was second last in terms of users operating on upgraded versions) makes use of a “manual update download reminder”. From the data gathered, researchers recommend that auto-updates should be adopted by all browsers.

The researchers also made a rather bizarre suggestion that once implemented would no doubt prove immensely effective. They propose that software companies adopt the same labelling system as that used by the food industry. That is, the IT industry should adopt “Best before” labels that would automatically inform users when their browsers are about to expire. The browser wouldn’t necessarily cease to function should users pass the “expiration date”, but then daily reminders could be set to document the number of days that have lapsed since expiration. They add that these reminders could also include details on new patches as they become available, as well as how many patches users have missed.

By and large, the best bet for browsers seems to be an automatic upgrade process, as users have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to block out and ignore reminders, no matter how insistent.
Are you operating on a secure browser?


This entry was posted on Friday, July 25th, 2008 at 9:47 am and is filed under data protection. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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