Firefox users have something new to brag about. Security vendor Secunia ApS reports that users of the open-source browser are more likely to have installed the latest security updates than web surfers running Internet Explorer or Opera.
Secunia's analysis is based on more than 350,000 software checks, performed over the past five months by its free Secunia Software Inspector service.
According to Secunia, 5.19 percent of all Firefox 2 users had missed security updates. For IE6, which is used by nearly half of all web surfers, that number was 9.61 percent. Microsoft's latest IE7 browser had a number much closer to Firefox's results: 5.40 percent.
Opera was the least likely to be patched. 11.96 percent of all Opera 9.x browsers were missing updates, Secunia found.
The numbers didn't surprise some observers.
"People have to choose to use Firefox," said Mike Cherry, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft research firm. "Does that automatically preselect them into a more sophisticated user class, that is more likely to install an update?"
Firefox and IE7 users are more likely to be early adopters who have a keen interest in keeping up-to-date with the latest technology, said Don Leatham, director of solutions and strategy with patch management software vendor PatchLink.
The fact that Firefox updates are delivered via the browser itself, rather than through a centralised updating mechanism like Windows Update may also be a factor Leatham added. "I think their actual execution from a software standpoint of letting the user know that Firefox needs to be updated is pretty good," he said.
Still, browsers are much more likely to be patched than other types of software. Secunia found that 28 percent of all programs on PCs it scanned were not fully updated.
"When it comes to other applications that don't immediately seem that exposed, people tend to wait for an extended period of time before patching," wrote Secunia IT Development Manager Jakob Balle in the Secunia analysis.
Media players fall into this category of frequently unpatched software. According to Secunia's findings, 26.96 percent of WinAMP 5 installations were missing updates. For QuickTime 7, that percentage was 33.14 percent.