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Analysis: which browser battles malware best?

Firefox 3, Opera 9.5 and IE 8 vs malware

A number of browsers that have recently been released including Firefox 3 and Opera 9.5, as well as the upcoming IE 8, benefit from blocking features to protect your PC from malware. We find out just what they offer.

The web is a minefield of malware. Invisible code is regularly slipped into vulnerable websites and acts as direct path for crooks who want to sneak malware infections through your browser and on to your PC, and any site whether large or small can fall foul of hackers.

However, the latest web browsers are fighting back. Firefox 3, Opera 9.5 and, soon Internet Explorer 8 too, benefit from new security features that block known malware sites.

Mass assaults online

"The bad guys are putting a lot of effort into mass hacking," says Roger Thompson, chief research officer with antivirus maker AVG Technologies. "They routinely hack 20,000 to 40,000 sites in a day" with automated tools, he says.

The browsers have their work cut out for them, to be sure. In May, a report from ScanSafe that looked at data from its corporate customers, found that their risk of encountering exploits and hijacked websites skyrocketed by 407 percent from the same period in 2007. ScanSafe also found that just over two-thirds of all web-based malware attacks came via compromised websites.

The new features in the latest browsers work much as existing antiphishing filters do. In Firefox 2, Mozilla uses Google's blacklist of known phishing sites. If you mistakenly click a link to a URL on that list, you'll see a warning instead of the site. Firefox 3 also blocks the display of pages on Google's list of known malware sites.

Firefox 3 grabs the most recent blacklist about every 30 minutes, according to spokesperson Johnathan Nightingale, and checks the sites you visit against that local list. Firefox 2 has an option to always check sites you visit against Google's online list so as to catch the very latest entries, but Firefox 3 provides no such option.

NEXT PAGE: Opera girds itself

  1. Web browsers that help block malware
  2. Opera girds itself

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