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The 12 biggest technology myths

Find out the truth behind tech's tallest tales

The internet is a breeding ground for lies, half-truths, and misinformation, especially when it comes to technology. We've dug up some of the web's most notorious nuggets of conventional wisdom to see which hold up to scrutiny and which are merely urban legends.

Internet Explorer is less secure than other browsers

Everyone 'knows' that Chrome, Firefox and Safari are all way more secure than Internet Explorer. But what's the real story?

To find out, I first looked up Symantec's twice-yearly Internet Security Threat Report, which yielded the total numbers of reported vulnerabilities for 2009: Firefox had the most at 169, followed by 94 for Safari, 45 for IE, and 41 for Google Chrome. For more-recent data, I turned to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which hosts the National Vulnerability Database, a searchable index of reported computer vulnerabilities. A search of data for a recent three-month period yielded 51 such vulnerabilities for Safari (including both mobile and desktop versions), 40 for Chrome, 20 for Firefox, and 17 for IE.

Such counts alone aren't the best way to measure a browser's security, however. A browser with 100 security flaws that are patched a day after being discovered is safer than a browser with only one exploit that hasn't been patched for months.

According to Symantec's report, the average window of vulnerability (the time be­­tween when the flaw is reported and when it's patched) in 2009 was less than a day for IE and Firefox, two days for Google Chrome, and a whopping 13 days for Safari. Clearly, Internet Explorer is doing fairly well. Nevertheless, you should still consider a few important factors before deciding to jump ship back to IE.

Stay updated. The second most common web-based attack in 2009 exploited an IE security flaw patched way back in 2004 (the 2009 attack targeted un-updated PCs). The latest version of IE 8 may be pretty safe, but ditch any earlier version you have.

Your browser is only as secure as your plug-ins. Symantec found that Microsoft's Ac­­tiveX plug-in (enabled by default in IE) was the least secure with 134 vulnerabilities, followed by Java SE with 84, Adobe Reader with 49, Apple QuickTime with 27, and Adobe Flash Player with 23. The moral: Be careful at sites that use browser plug-ins.

It's tough to be on top. IE still has the biggest piece of the browser pie, meaning that cybercriminals are more likely to target IE than other browsers.

Warning: 4, Outrageous

NEXT PAGE: You're safe if you visit only family sites

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