What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser?
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The battle for the best desktop browser will never be settled. There are those who will always swear by Google Chrome; others who hold Safari up as the clear winner; and even some who have stuck by Internet Explorer (IE) despite constant press negativity.

This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.

Even defining the qualities for what constitutes as “The Best” is difficult, though it often simply comes down to user experience.

But which is the most secure? Of course, all will boast having superior protection — but in 2017, which is the browser of choice for the security- and privacy-conscious?

What Is “Mainstream”?

Let’s set out some ground rules. If we were to open this up to all browsers, we’d be here forever and no conclusions would be made.

For those not tech-savvy, we’re not rating operating systems (OS), mobile What Is The Most Secure Mobile Operating System? What Is The Most Secure Mobile Operating System? Battling for the title of Most Secure Mobile OS, we have: Android, BlackBerry, Ubuntu, Windows Phone, and iOS. Which operating system is the best at holding its own against online attacks? Read More or otherwise. This isn’t about Linux Are You Using the Best Web Browser for Linux in 2016? Are You Using the Best Web Browser for Linux in 2016? Using the "wrong" browser can lead to a lot of unnecessary headaches, wasted productivity, and even lost data. So which browser is the best for your Linux computer? Let's find out. Read More or Mac or Windows desktop. We’re solely concentrating on which browser you’re using to explore the internet.

This is designed for all levels of expertise — meaning we won’t cover VPN services like Tor because relatively few actually use that.

Instead, we’re focusing on the most popular six. Those are, at the time of writing: Chrome (59.61% market share); Internet Explorer (14.18%); Firefox (12.85%); Edge (5.15%); Safari (5.08%); and Opera (1.27%). Again, we’re looking solely at desktop, but even if we include smartphone and tablet browsers, Chrome still comes out on top. However, Safari naturally sees a huge increase,  thanks to it being the iPhone browser, putting it in second place.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Chrome download

We’re going to look at each of these in turn, listing them in order of market share.

This isn’t a popularity contest: let’s find out which is the most secure!

Google Chrome

Google is renowned for its solid security measures, which probably accounts for a considerable number of users downloading Chrome. It’s fair to say the rest just became used to it after dissatisfaction with IE. With an almost 60% market share, millions use Chrome. A wealth of those accessing the web through different gateways no doubt still use Google as a search engine This Is Why You Should Stop Using Google Search This Is Why You Should Stop Using Google Search Google has unrivaled access to your browsing habits. Giving everything to Google isn't such a good idea. Here are some excellent Google alternatives that still get the job done. Read More too.

All in all: the majority of people use, and therefore trust, Google.

But are they right to?

Sandboxing

Let’s introduce you to a concept that we’re going to keep coming back to, but which Chrome arguably does best: sandboxing.

Essentially, sandboxing is damage limitation. This is a safe space isolated from other areas of your computer: what happens in the sandbox stays in the sandbox — unless, that is, it’s something you’ve allowed to have wider effects.

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Image Credits: Gabriel Pu via Flickr.

Any page or tab opened on Chrome is sandboxed so it can’t adversely affect your OS or any other app you’re running. If one website is unresponsive, those loaded on other tabs should still carry on as normal. Equally, if you encounter an unsafe site, any potential viruses won’t impact the rest of your PC. Once you close the page, the unsafe site is gone too.

The same goes for extensions. Flash, though flawed Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) The Internet's relationship with Flash has been rocky for a while. Once, it was a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. What changed? Read More , is an extensively-used add-on, allowing you to watch videos and play games on the web. Because it’s popular, however, hackers aim to exploit it. Fortunately, Chrome sandboxes this too; any issue with Flash won’t trouble any other part of your OS.

Think of it like television Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Before the days of mobile devices and laptops, our entertainment needs were mostly filled by one source, the television. Read More . No single channel affects another. Don’t like what you’re seeing on NBC? Just “close” the channel by turning over. Simple.

We’re certainly not saying that Chrome is the only service to use the sandboxing method What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One What's A Sandbox, And Why Should You Be Playing in One Highly-connective programs can do a lot, but they're also an open invitation for bad hackers to strike. To prevent strikes from becoming successful, a developer would have to spot and close every single hole in... Read More . Your smartphone does too, as long as you’re solely using the official app stores Why Can't I Download Certain Apps on the Play Store? Why Can't I Download Certain Apps on the Play Store? If you're having trouble downloading an Android app from the Google Play Store, here's how to fix that. Read More . Any browser that uses the open-source software provided by the Chromium Projects The 10 Best Open Source Projects You Should Be Volunteering To Help With The 10 Best Open Source Projects You Should Be Volunteering To Help With You don't have to be a programmer. You could be a writer, a designer, a translator, just a Facebook or Twitter junkie, or someone who wants to just donate money for the cause. There are... Read More includes sandboxing. But Chrome is the browser that uses the original source code.

A Proviso about Sandboxing

If you use Chrome, you might be questioning why you’ve had viruses in the past. If everything’s sandboxed, you should be fine — right?

Sadly not.

Malware, including ransomware A History of Ransomware: Where It Started & Where It's Going A History of Ransomware: Where It Started & Where It's Going Ransomware dates from the mid-2000s and like many computer security threats, originated from Russia and eastern Europe before evolving to become an increasingly potent threat. But what does the future hold for ransomware? Read More , is held back by the unique environment, but the second you download anything, you leave yourself open to any flaws. You allow something to make changes to your PC. This might be adding a PDF PDF Reader vs. Browser: Which PDF Viewer Is Best for You? PDF Reader vs. Browser: Which PDF Viewer Is Best for You? A PDF reader is often one of the first tools people install on their new computer. It's not glamorous or sexy, but it's a vital tool in your productivity arsenal. Or is it? Read More to your Documents, or it could be having malicious code running in the background.

That’s why email providers let you view attachments online: that way, anything you view is contained. Downloading anything is only advisable if you know for sure that everything’s okay.

More Good Stuff

The sandboxing process is widely used, so that’s fortunately not the only edge Chrome has on other services.

You’ve probably visited a site and seen a pop up, warning that the site could harm your computer. That’s Chrome’s Safe Browsing 7 Family Safety Tools To Keep Your Kids Safe Online 7 Family Safety Tools To Keep Your Kids Safe Online Like the real world, the internet can sometimes be a scary place for your kids. There are some great apps and tools to keep them safe; here are some we think are the best. Read More , which alerts you of anything it suspects contains malware or phishing. The same goes for Google Search: when listing results, unsecure options will be accompanied by a similar monitory.

Chrome also defaults to the most secure settings without negatively impacting your experience. In the address bar, it’ll tell you whether a site is secure (i.e. if it has SSL or TLS certificates How Web Browsing Is Becoming Even More Secure How Web Browsing Is Becoming Even More Secure We have SSL certificates to thank for our security and privacy. But recent breaches and flaws may have dented your trust in the cryptographic protocol. Fortunately, SSL is adapting, being upgraded - here's how. Read More ), and clicking on that padlock or “i” symbol will tell you more about your connection. It’ll advise you whether you can safely submit sensitive information, for example, followed by a list of general permissions.

On default, it will allow the loading of images, JavaScript, and Background Sync. For all others, like accessing your webcam, microphone, and location, Chrome will ask you whether this is really something you want to do.

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Image Credit: Alan Myers via Flickr.

All of these are customizable, but rest assured that you don’t need to do anything to these settings to improve security or usability.

The best thing about Chrome, however, is its updates. With major security patches issued every 15 days, Google is the fastest mainstream browser to respond to vulnerabilities. Any browser that checks whether fixes must be applied so regularly should be applauded.

Furthermore, developers are always keen to push new Chrome extensions The Best Chrome Extensions The Best Chrome Extensions A list of only the best extensions for Google Chrome, including suggestions from our readers. Read More . While this isn’t the place to talk about those add-ons, taking 10 minutes out to personalize your browser can significantly tighten protection.

Reporting Exploitations

In the latest two-day hacking contest, Pwn2Own, hacking collectives attempted to exploit (and so expose) vulnerabilities in major browsers. In 2016 and 2017, Chrome came out on top, with no hackers able to crack it in the allotted time limit.

It doesn’t mean that no one could eventually carry out a successful cyberattack, but it remains a good sign that Chrome is a very strong contender.

Add to this the fact that the Chromium Projects has a Chrome Reward Program. Set up in 2010, Google offers monetary incentives Google Will Pay You $100+ If You Just Help Them Out Google Will Pay You $100+ If You Just Help Them Out Google has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to regular users for doing one simple thing. Read More to anyone who exposes a vulnerability and reports it to them, instead of exploiting the flaw.

If a full report is made, the standing reward money is up to $15,000. That total is to anyone finding fault in the sandboxing process, though other prizes remain for smaller issues including bugs in third-party components.

Patches for any problems would then be issued via updates.

Are There Any Negatives?

Naturally. Nothing is impervious.

One of the things acting against Chrome is its popularity. You might question the logic of this argument, but because it’s used by so many, it’s the biggest target. In 2016, Chrome had the most discovered vulnerabilities (172, compared to Edge’s 135). The statistic doesn’t account for the severity of flaws, how fast they were patched, or, of course, how many remain undiscovered on other browsers.

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Image Credit: Eduardo Woo via Flickr.

Similarly, a patch may be issued, but that doesn’t mean users are updating their settings. This is a problem shared by all mainstream browsers, and Chrome isn’t the worst affected. Still, around 50% don’t update.

Yet it’s very easy to do! Just click on the vertical ellipses at the top right, then Help > About Google Chrome. It should automatically update. It takes a few seconds to do, and will require relaunching. Don’t worry about losing any pages, they’ll be saved.

We might applaud the browser’s security measures, but it doesn’t have an entirely clean record. You know what we’re talking about: privacy.

They go hand in hand, don’t they? Google isn’t trusted with privacy Concerned About Privacy? How To Keep Google At Arm's Length Concerned About Privacy? How To Keep Google At Arm's Length Concerned about Google's data collection policies in light of all privacy issues? It might not be a bad idea to keep Google away from your Internet activities. But just how can you do that? Read More .

The technology giant collects masses of data about its users, and such details can be used to generate personalized adverts. No, it doesn’t matter if you use private browsing 4 Ways You Can Be Tracked When In Private Browsing 4 Ways You Can Be Tracked When In Private Browsing Private browsing is private in 99% of cases, but there are many ways in which it can be circumvented, thanks to browser extensions and hacks. Some of them don't even need all that much work. Read More at all. Between Gmail, YouTube, and search terms, Google collects a lot of information Five Things Google Probably Knows About You Five Things Google Probably Knows About You Read More .

Realistically, there are a lot of services that collects and sells on your data. Should you be concerned Google Shares Your Data, But Is It All Bad News? Google Shares Your Data, But Is It All Bad News? Does Google really want to give worldwide authorities wider access to your personal details? Or has their demand for better data sharing for counter-terrorism been misreported? Is Google actually fighting for your privacy? Read More ? Your mileage will vary. Lots of people are troubled by Google, but happily post to Facebook Three Reasons To Believe Facebook Might Be Used to Spy On You Three Reasons To Believe Facebook Might Be Used to Spy On You Facebook could be used against you. Privacy is something that should concern everyone, yet social networking blurs the line between right and wrong. Read More all the time. It’s up to you. If you’re that worried, we recommend a Virtual Private Network (VPN) The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More and a search engine that doesn’t vacuum up details.

Internet Explorer

It’s time we moved onto another very popular browser. It’s something of a laughing stock Top Issues People Have with Internet Explorer, and Easy Ways to Fix Them Top Issues People Have with Internet Explorer, and Easy Ways to Fix Them Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter with IE and quick and easy solutions for fixing them. Read More , although still boasts a market share of 14.18%, in second place behind Chrome Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer, Solving Windows God Mode Malware... [Tech News Digest] Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer, Solving Windows God Mode Malware... [Tech News Digest] Chrome is the most popular Web browser, Windows God Mode gets hit with malware, Apple thinks you'll be upgrading soon, Google Keyboard gets a major update, and Apple Watch is improved immeasurably by Windows 95. Read More . Yes, it’s Internet Explorer.

It’s an oldie, but is it a goodie…?

Is There Anything Good?

It’s dead. Support for all version of IE except the 11th version has been stopped, and as for the final iteration, it’s only a matter of time.

It’s still hanging in there. You’ll even find it hidden on Windows 10. Microsoft actively wants you to switch to Edge 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Edge Now 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Edge Now Microsoft Edge marks a complete break from the Internet Explorer brand name, killing off a 20-year-old family tree in the process. Here's why you should be using it. Read More , and the migration will be gradual — that is, if users stick with the company and not find another browser to use.

Saying that, if you’re on IE11, you get updates every 30 days. Or thereabouts. Frequency will drop, and won’t return to more acceptable levels.

Plus, it’s supported by your PC’s OS, so when setting it up, it’ll recommend you use Windows Defender SmartScreen 4 Reasons to Use Windows Defender in Windows 10 4 Reasons to Use Windows Defender in Windows 10 In the past, Windows Defender was overshadowed by other options, but now it's quite a contender. Here are a few reasons why you should consider dropping your security suite in favor of Windows Defender. Read More . This checks suspicious websites and apps with Microsoft, and so protects you from a fair amount of malware. You can also blacklist sites you definitely don’t trust.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Try Microsoft Edge

Another bonus is its transparency in showing you your security and privacy settings. Just click the cog at the top right, then Internet options. A box will appear that lets you flit between numerous tabs, but the second and third should take your attention. Here, you can see your Trusted and Restricted Sites, and then toggle the security actions taken. You can also benefit from Protected Mode, which isolates untrusted sites and add-ons, and so limits the harm they can do to your PC. It’s IE’s sandboxing, basically.

Then in the Privacy tab, you can tick a box to stop sites requesting locational data, and change settings for InPrivate Browsing and the Pop-up Blocker.

This Doesn’t Sound Too Bad

It’s not awful. IE has a terrible reputation, hence why Microsoft is in the process of killing it off in favor of Edge. But maybe it’s not as eye-wateringly bad as you’ve heard.

And this is still Microsoft we’re talking about, so you’re covered by the firm’s Privacy Policies, which are pretty similar to Google’s. Both internet giants can make money from your data, so it’d be naïve to think they wouldn’t on ethical grounds.

Still, it’s going the way of the dodo. There’s no denying it. In 5 years’ time, IE will be a relic of the past. Some would argue it already is…

Why Should You Avoid IE?

It might not seem terrible, but you should still avoid IE.

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Image Credit: Christiaan Colen via Flickr.

The aforementioned settings that give you extra control over your security and privacy don’t default to the most secure options. It’s customizable, so you must take matters into your own hands. This is especially bad as those using IE will likely not be as tech-savvy as those who have transferred to Edge or indeed another browser altogether.

The core problem, however, is the lack of updates in the near future. For now, Microsoft recognizes the considerable 14.18% market share and still pushes security patches. That won’t last. It can’t. It’s a redundant system. You should be informed when support ends, but keep an eye on MakeUseOf just in case.

In 2016, 129 vulnerabilities were discovered on IE; this will surely rise as more sophisticated malicious software is unleashed online. The ongoing concern isn’t just that more flaws will be found, but more so that fewer outlets will even bother reporting them.

If you’re not using IE11, you really need to update the version you are using, or switch entirely. IE11 is only compatible with Windows 8.1 or newer, so you’re stuck with an older, unsecure IE if you have an earlier OS.

In that case, you definitely need to change browser.

Firefox

The number of people who still use Firefox is dropping, yet it still holds a 12.85% market share.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Firefox download

Indeed, there are plenty of good reasons you should use Firefox 9 Reasons to Switch From Chrome to Firefox 9 Reasons to Switch From Chrome to Firefox The days when Chrome was the best browser are long gone. People are returning to Firefox! Is it time to switch (back)? Here are several reasons that may convince you. Read More , whether that’s in conjunction with another browser or in isolation. It takes up less memory, for instance. You may worry about Google’s seeming monopoly on the internet, so find comfort in the fact that Firefox’s developer, Mozilla, is not-for-profit.

But how good is it when it comes to your security and privacy?

Applauding Firefox’s Mission

We’ve already noted that, if you’re security-minded, it’s very likely you also care a lot about your privacy. Frankly, we all should. That’s why Firefox is great.

Mozilla’s raison d’etre is in fighting for your rights, and giving you control over your own personal information Here's How Much Your Identity Could Be Worth on the Dark Web Here's How Much Your Identity Could Be Worth on the Dark Web It's uncomfortable to think of yourself as a commodity, but all of your personal details, from name and address to bank account details, are worth something to online criminals. How much are you worth? Read More . The company collects very few details and doesn’t sell anything on. This is achieved through Firefox’s Private Browsing with Tracking Protection. It’s an in-private mode that really is private, stopping sites and add-ons that wish to collect data about you from doing so.

Whereas other browsers will remember your contact details and passwords by storing cookies What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] Most people know that there are cookies scattered all over the Internet, ready and willing to be eaten up by whoever can find them first. Wait, what? That can’t be right. Yes, there are cookies... Read More , Firefox deletes everything once you close the page. Facebook sharing plug-ins create shadow profiles of even non-users It Doesn't Matter If You're Not On Facebook: They're Still Tracking You It Doesn't Matter If You're Not On Facebook: They're Still Tracking You A new report claims the Facebook is tracking people without their permission. It doesn't matter if you don't use social networking service: they're still watching you. What can you do about it? Read More ; Firefox further blocks any trackers embedded in sites.

Firefox is the only browser to do this automatically. That’s a fantastic thing.

Again, this feeds back into the fact Mozilla is non-profit. Google can benefit from personalized adverts, for example, whereas Mozilla won’t:

“We believe the Internet is for people, not profit. Unlike other companies, we don’t sell access to your data. You’re in control over who sees your search and browsing history. Choice — that’s what a healthy Internet is all about!”

It’s a solid ethic that we should all get behind.

The Sandboxing Problem

Created in 2002, and widely released two years later, Firefox’s architecture was somewhat out-of-date, just as with IE. The latter was replaced by Edge, but Mozilla didn’t need to completely replace its browser because Firefox has a pretty good reputation. The thing it needed to address, however, was sandboxing.

Right now, sandboxing is key. It’s that added peace of mind; after all, everyone slips up sometimes and experiences a bug that could affect your wider OS. It’s even how smartphones work, limiting the impact one app can have over anything else.

The fact that Firefox didn’t implement such security measures was worrying. But Mozilla listens to its community: since 2009, it’s been developing Project Electrolysis, and has been slowly phasing in the sandboxing method since August 2016. It took so long because it had to retroactively preserve the compatibility of extensions.

In Firefox version 54, released in June 2017, the feature took full effect.

The Electrolysis multi-process technique is different from any browser based on the Chromium Projects’ source code. Whereas Chrome’s sandboxing sees new processes created for each new tab, Firefox enforces a four-process limit. That doesn’t mean you can only open four pages. Instead, any further content will effectively leach off the power used for those first core processes.

Why? It’s all about memory usage 5 Things To Do When Firefox Runs Slow But Other Browsers Run Fast 5 Things To Do When Firefox Runs Slow But Other Browsers Run Fast Firefox shouldn’t feel slow, particularly when compared to Opera and Internet Explorer. If it does, try these tips and see if you can restore it to its full glory. Read More . The more tabs in Chrome, the slower your browsing is likely to be. While there will be some lagging, Firefox splits the energy needed more succinctly.

In effect, you get the same advantages of sandboxing, but your experience will be a lot faster.

Other Security Features?

Elsewhere, Firefox boasts the most impressive update times.

Major updates are typically issued every 28 days or so, but minor patches are rolled out more frequently than that, depending on the vulnerabilities. Google is quicker with large-scale updates; Firefox is quicker when it comes to tweaking settings.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Firefox advert

This is due to the fact it’s independent open-source software. The code is accessible, so you can check there’s nothing malicious going on under the hood.

It’s also worth noting that you can supplement Firefox with plenty of extensions that tighten up any potential security problems. The NoScript Security Suite is a great example of this: it restricts executable content like Java 3 Ways JavaScript Can Breach Your Privacy & Security 3 Ways JavaScript Can Breach Your Privacy & Security JavaScript is a good thing for the most part, but it just happens to be so flexible and so powerful that keeping it in check can be difficult. Here's what you need to know. Read More solely to trusted domains. Media add-ons like Flash, too, come with added sandboxing, so if a video crashes, the rest of your page won’t be affected.

Any Problems?

Firefox is obviously as susceptible to vulnerabilities as other browsers, with 133 discovered in 2016 alone. Their repercussions, however, pale in comparison to the browser’s update times.

In 2016, Firefox didn’t seem worth hacking any more, at least if we look at that year’s Pwn2Own contest. Hackers didn’t attempt it at all. Brian Gorenc, manager of Vulnerability Research at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said:

“We wanted to focus on the browsers that have made serious security improvements in the last year.”

Now, it’s a serious contender again. As such, in Pwn2Own 2017, the browser proved impervious to a few cyberattacks — but caved into one exploitation. We expect a patch was soon issued.

As ever, it’s up to individual users to download the upgrades. Around 33% of Firefox users aren’t running the latest version… and in some cases, that might mean users don’t benefit from the sandboxing-like multi-processing method.

Still, Firefox has come a long way in just a few months, and it can hold its own against other browsers.

Microsoft Edge

Anyone with Windows 10 will have Edge on default How to Set Up Microsoft Edge, the Default Browser in Windows 10 How to Set Up Microsoft Edge, the Default Browser in Windows 10 Microsoft's new Internet browser Edge made its first appearance in Windows 10 Insider Preview. It's still rough around the edges, but sleek and fast. We show you how to migrate and set it up. Read More . This probably accounts for its 5.15% market share.

Microsoft is urging users to migrate from IE to Edge. Based on security alone, is it a good move?

Does Its Newness Affect Security?

As the newest mainstream browser in this list, Edge is yet to pass the greatest test of all: time. That’s how Chrome has got where it is now; it’s simply braved the storms and reacted in a prompt manner to any vulnerabilities.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Try Microsoft Edge 2

This much is evident from the exploitations discovered in its debut year. In 2015, a considerable 270 vulnerabilities were exposed — that’s more than Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Safari. You might expect that number to decrease considerably in the following year…

And that’s exactly what happened, fortunately! 135 were discovered in 2016, literally halving its total. It’s applaudable. Then again, of those aforementioned mainstream browsers, it’s second-place only to Chrome in the number of flaws. We should now reinforce the fact that discovered flaws doesn’t mean any other browser doesn’t have more potential issues to exploit; it just means they’re yet to be found.

Its recentness does perhaps give us some hope. Microsoft is keen to push Edge as the future The Firefox-Lover's Guide to the Microsoft Edge Browser The Firefox-Lover's Guide to the Microsoft Edge Browser Putting prejudice aside, is Edge any good? I decided to pit it against my personal favorite web browser, Firefox, to see how it compares. Here's what I found. Read More , so you’d expect the firm to keep a watchful eye for any issues.

Indeed, it took over a year to add extensions during the Windows 10 Anniversary Update How to Get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update Now How to Get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update Now Windows 10 is receiving a major upgrade this month. The Anniversary Update is rolling out slowly. We show you how to upgrade now, how to delay the upgrade, and which pitfalls to watch out for. Read More , so it at least appears that Microsoft is properly vetting add-ons.

Basically, Edge is new, and that both works in its favor and against it.

Does It Have the Edge?

Edge is one of Microsoft’s highest priorities, and so it enjoys a lot of care. As you might expect, updates are frequent. It receives patches two or three times a month, so as long as you’ve got your eye on the ball, problems will be ironed out early in the browser’s life.

Support will lessen over time, but again, that’s purely because right now, its freshness proves an interesting challenge to cybercriminals intent on finding new means of exploitation.

It does have another thing going for it, and you might be getting déjà vu here: sandboxing. It doesn’t make Edge stronger than other browsers, but does at least level the playing field. It’s what we expect nowadays.

Further taking a cue from Chrome’s Safe Browsing, IE introduced a Phishing Filter. Later renamed SmartScreen The Complete Guide to Windows 10 Privacy Settings The Complete Guide to Windows 10 Privacy Settings Do you know how much personal data you're actually sharing when using Windows 10? We show you every single Windows 10 privacy setting and what it means. Take back control over your data! Read More , it’s since been improved upon and integrated into Edge. If you try to access content that it suspects is riddled with malware, a warning screen will appear. You can’t miss it: it’s bright red and it’s tough to bypass.

This is because the site has been reported as unsafe. In late 2016, cybersecurity experts, NSS Labs tested over 300 examples of malware and phishing on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. The latter’s SmartScreen blocked 99% of these, compared to Chrome’s 85.8% and Firefox’s 78.3%. That’s fantastic because it means Microsoft’s list of sites reported as unsafe is extensive.

Obviously, Edge has an in-private mode. Your browser won’t store passwords, contact details, or any other data passed collected using cookies. That keeps your stuff hidden from other people using your computer — but advertizers can still track you. Microsoft can still profit from selling on your data, so don’t expect the secrecy awarded by Firefox or VPNs.

Anything Bad to Consider?

Certainly if you’re wondering whether to replace IE with Edge, you should do so. The latter is superior in pretty much every way. Unfortunately, roughly 75% of IE/Edge users are still running out-of-date versions. That’s a big problem.

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Image Credit: marcyscreed2013 via Flickr.

The real concern right now, however, is that Microsoft still has a lot of work to do. Despite claiming Edge is the most secure browser, it came bottom of the pack in the Pwn2Own 2017 New Vulnerabilities Illustrate Yet More Windows 10 Shortcomings New Vulnerabilities Illustrate Yet More Windows 10 Shortcomings Windows has become a byword for computing but Windows' dominance make it a constant target. While Windows 10 is their most secure operating system yet, it still has numerous vulnerabilities which are now coming to... Read More contest. Yes, really.

Numerous hacking attempts were, admittedly, unsuccessful. Nonetheless, five attacks worked — which is actually worse than its performance in the 2016 competition, which saw only two exploitations.

It’s supposed to boast security features to rival Chrome A Microsoft Edge Review From A Die-Hard Chrome User A Microsoft Edge Review From A Die-Hard Chrome User Make no mistake, I am a die-hard Chrome user. But my curiosity got the better of me, so I took the plunge and tried Microsoft Edge. Read More , and yet the two came out as polar opposites. Sure, some of these vulnerabilities might be hangers-on from IE, but Microsoft can’t rely on sandboxing and good press to keep Edge secure. At least with those five vulnerabilities exposed, patches have (presumably) been applied…

Safari

Millions use Safari every single day. Aside from being the default browser on iPhones and iPads 15 Essential Safari iOS Tips & Tricks for iPhone Users 15 Essential Safari iOS Tips & Tricks for iPhone Users A surprising number of useful actions in Safari on iOS are hidden behind long presses, gestures, and 3D Touch. Read More , it’s installed on Macs. This accounts for its 5.08% market share (though that increases significantly if we factor in iPads and iPhones).

The majority of us trust Apple’s security — even questioning whether you need a security suite on handheld devices Does Your Smartphone Need Security & Antivirus Software? Does Your Smartphone Need Security & Antivirus Software? Does your Android phone need an antivirus? What about your iPad? Your BlackBerry or Windows Phone? The answer is actually a bit complicated. Let's take a look at your options. Read More — but is Safari all it’s cracked up to be?

Reasons to Use Safari

Safari comes as an installed browser on Apple products, and many stick with it for that reason alone. It is the most natural fit for Macs, though Chrome is a good option too. Well, arguably at least 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Chrome on a MacBook 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Chrome on a MacBook Chrome is, for many people, the first thing installed on a new Macbook. It makes sense: in its early days Chrome gained a reputation for being lightweight and fast. Read More .

This is because Apple uses the WebKit rendering engine How Do Browsers Display Web Pages, and Why Don't They Ever Look the Same? How Do Browsers Display Web Pages, and Why Don't They Ever Look the Same? Read More across all its software. As we’ve previously mentioned, apps on an iPhone are sandboxed as a form of damage limitation; it’s why you need to give permission to apps to access your Camera, Photos, and sharing via social media. This is also the case for the browser.

That mindset is common throughout Safari: it’ll require permission to execute most actions, either on a case-by-case basis or based on permissions you can toggle en masse in settings.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Safari download

Still, Apple’s a business, so some personal information will be used for personalized adverts etc. Safari has all the features you’d expect from a security-conscious browser.

Why Safari’s 54-Day Update Program Isn’t a Problem

Apple issues major updates every 54 days.

Compared to other browsers, you might be shocked to hear it takes quite a while for considerable patches to be rolled out. However, there are two ways of looking at this.

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Image Credit: Dafne Cholet via Flickr.

Optimistically, fewer vulnerabilities are typically found than on Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Edge. In 2016, just 56 were discovered. Yes, that’s a lot, but in comparison to Chrome’s 172, it’s commendable. Before that, 2015 was a bad year: 135 problems were identified, yet Safari remains, year-on-year, the browser with the fewest known vulnerabilities.

Less frequent patches seem okay if there are less flaws to fix in the first place.

Conversely, taking 54 days to issue major updates is troubling. At least smaller patches are rolled out more often.

And this is another solid reason why intermittent updates is a good thing. Currently, around 33% of Safari users are running an older version; compared to the other mainstream browsers, this is the smallest percentage, in line with Firefox.

Users are surely more likely to install new versions if these are issued more irregularly. We’d definitely prefer to update Safari than Edge, considering the latter works in conjunction with Windows. An inconvenient system restart is needed to finalize the installation.

Reasons Not to Use Safari

All of this is in opposition to those headlines you might have read recently about Safari having more vulnerabilities than even IE.

Google’s Project Zero team publicly analyzed security on the five main browsers. They used Domato, an automated tool with around 100,000,000 iterations. It’s a costly thing, but cybercriminals could easily get reimbursement.

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Image Credit: Karlis Dambrans via Flickr.

This revealed 31 potential exploits in total across Chrome, IE, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. Chrome came in top, with just two flaws; closely followed by IE and Firefox (4 in each).

Shockingly, 17 of these bugs were found in Safari.

Project Zero’s Ivan Fratric noted:

“Apple Safari is a clear outlier in the experiment with significantly higher number of bugs found. This is especially worrying given attackers’ interest in the platform as evidenced by the exploit prices and recent targeted attacks.”

You might rationalize it: Google carried out the test, so of course Chrome would come in 1st Place. Nonetheless, the results were conclusive; those flaws existed. Since then, patches have been issued. It remains a concern, as the test exposed problems with WebKit — and that’s the basic architecture for all Apple products.

Safari fared badly at the Pwn2Own 2017 contest too, with numerous successful hacking attempts across the three-day event. Some did fail, so Safari is still preferable to Edge at least.

Opera

You might already have come to a decision on which browser’s the most secure.

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? Opera download

But Opera’s 1.27% market share means it’s the sixth most popular.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings…

The Link Between Opera and Chrome

Released just a few months before IE in 1995, Opera is the oldest of the mainstream browsers on this list. It’s also the one with the smallest market share. But don’t let either of these things put you off 8 Opera Features You Should Start Using Today 8 Opera Features You Should Start Using Today Let's explore eight of the best Opera features that will make browsing smoother and more convenient for you. We bet you'll want to start using them right away. Read More .

Opera was feeling its age in the late 2000s, but it completely revolutionized itself in 2013. This was simply by taking on the same source coding as the Chromium Projects. Effectively, it has the same security as Chrome — notably that crucial sandboxing method. It also checks SSL/TSL certificates, making sure your connection is secure and genuine.

Even trusted sites can have dodgy elements like scripting issues. That’s why Opera has added malware protection, blocking anything it detects could harm your PC. The ad-blocker comes automatically downloaded, and makes your experience safer and faster.

Customization is ideal too. You can add a load of great extensions, and, after some setting-up time, you can add Chrome ones to Opera too How to Install Google Chrome Extensions in Opera Browser How to Install Google Chrome Extensions in Opera Browser Opera is making a case for you to switch to it. There's one small problem: extensions. What if you could install Chrome extensions in Opera? It's easy, so here's a quick guide. Read More .

So far, so good.

Why Choose Opera Over Chrome?

You might be reading this thinking that Opera sounds like a less-popular Chrome. So why bother switching I Switched From Chrome to Opera and I’m Never Going Back I Switched From Chrome to Opera and I’m Never Going Back Any browser works. There's only one reason to pick one over another: it's more in line with how you like to browse the web. And you might prefer Opera, too. Read More ? I’m glad you asked. There’s a very good reason.

Opera has an in-built VPN Get Free Unlimited VPN on the New Opera Desktop Browser Get Free Unlimited VPN on the New Opera Desktop Browser Opera is doing a lot to lure users back, and its latest feature is a doozy. Opera now comes with unlimited, free VPN for life! Read More !

This is a proxy server that makes your connection to sites much more secure by encrypting data Don't Believe These 5 Myths About Encryption! Don't Believe These 5 Myths About Encryption! Encryption sounds complex, but is far more straightforward than most think. Nonetheless, you might feel a little too in-the-dark to make use of encryption, so let's bust some encryption myths! Read More sent between the two. VPNs are arguably essential when you’re inputting sensitive information like when you’re doing online banking Is Online Banking Secure? 5 Risks That Should Worry You Is Online Banking Secure? 5 Risks That Should Worry You There's a lot to like about online banking. It's convenient, can simplify your life, you might even get better savings rates. But is online banking as safe and secure as it should be? Read More . That’s why any genuine site that needs such data uses encryption (look for the “S” in “HTTPS” What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More ).

But VPNs are also handy because they prevent cookies, and it’s harder for cybercriminals to hack connections. It’s definitely something you should make use of when using public Wi-Fi 5 Ways Hackers Can Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Your Identity 5 Ways Hackers Can Use Public Wi-Fi to Steal Your Identity You might love using public Wi-Fi -- but so do hackers. Here are five ways cybercriminals can access your private data and steal your identity, while you're enjoying a latte and a bagel. Read More : that’s a mine-field!

Oh, and you can bypass blocks. There are other ways to access restricted material 5 Ways to Bypass Blocked Sites Without Using Proxies or VPNs 5 Ways to Bypass Blocked Sites Without Using Proxies or VPNs You're at work or school, but want to view a blocked website. You could try a proxy or VPN, but there are alternatives that you -- and the IT department -- might have overlooked... Read More , but having a VPN streamlines the process 5 Methods to Bypass Blocked Sites 5 Methods to Bypass Blocked Sites You're at work or school, but you want to check on Facebook, or watch something on YouTube. It's blocked - so how do you get around this and ruin your productivity? Read More .

It’s a free, unlimited service. As long as you’ve got Opera, and it continues to be supported, you’re fine. It’s not automatically applied, however: you need to toggle stuff a little bit. All you have to do is go on browser settings, then Privacy and security > Enable VPN. That activates the VPN service on everything you do through Opera, but there’s also an option to use the tunnel What A VPN Tunnel Is & How To Set One Up What A VPN Tunnel Is & How To Set One Up Read More solely when on in-private browsing.

Anything Bad You Should Know About?

There’s not a lot to criticize. It’s not an entirely logless service 6 Logless VPNs That Take Your Privacy Seriously 6 Logless VPNs That Take Your Privacy Seriously In an age where every online movement is tracked and logged, a VPN seems a logical choice. We've taken a look at six VPNs that take your anonymity seriously. Read More , so yes, Opera does collect some personal information on you. This might be your email, IP address How to Trace an IP Address to a PC & How to Find Your Own How to Trace an IP Address to a PC & How to Find Your Own Want to see the IP address of your computer? Perhaps you want to discover where another computer is situated? Various free tools are available that tell you more about a computer an its IP address. Read More , device maker, and screen resolution.

Data is shared between third-parties, ergo add-ons, and Opera. The browser’s focus on privacy is aided by the VPN service, but comes second to Firefox purely because it does collect some information.

Opera also automatically updates, so you don’t need to trouble yourself with making sure the latest version is installed. Saying that, updates are issued every 48 days — more frequent than Safari, but falling behind all others listed above. It’s a less popular browser, so you could argue that it’s granted some security through obscurity (STO); should that sway you? Not especially. Nor should the fact it’s not open-source. It does, at least, explain the comparatively slow update times.

Because its structure is based on Chromium, Opera wasn’t a contender at the Pwn2Own 2017 event, but based on all we’ve heard, maybe it should be in the 2018 contest…

A Final Word on Downloads

In most cases, your OS already has a browser installed as default. If you’ve got a new version of Windows, it’ll be Edge; for Mac users, you’ll have Safari. Most Linux desktops have Firefox preinstalled.

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Image Credit: John Trainor via Flickr.

Whichever you have, you’ll probably want to try out another. Hopefully this article will have tempted you. That requires you use the default browser to find the one you actually want. (Sometimes, you have to wonder how many folk have only ever used IE to get Chrome.)

The most important thing is to get the correct download. This is where malware — ransomware, for instance Why Encrypting Your Data Won't Protect You From Ransomware Why Encrypting Your Data Won't Protect You From Ransomware Encrypting your data will keep it safe from theft and unauthorized access. But when it comes to ransomware, your encrypted data is little more than a locked safe inside the scammer's locked safe. Read More — can come from.

And so, for the sake of brevity alone, here’s where you can download Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Safari (for Macs only).

What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser?

It’s conclusion time. We’ve looked at the six browsers with the top market shares, and yes, others are available 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private A good way to protect your information on the web is to surf anonymously. Google Chrome’s Incognito mode can help to an extent, but you should also look at the following web browsers. Read More . However, you don’t need to seek out anything obscure.

Right now, the most secure browsers are Chrome and Opera. They use the same techniques, and, rather pleasingly, are respectively the browsers with the biggest and smallest market shares on this list. If you’re used to one, try out the other; we’re sure you’ll be impressed.

You could pay for a fancy VPN service The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More . Or just get a free one by using Opera. But if you like some convenience (i.e. cookies to remember your usernames), go with Chrome.

Firefox is also a very solid browser, and we love Mozilla’s focus on privacy. It has vulnerabilities, but so does every other browser. That includes Safari — not as invincible as some would have you believe, but still pretty good.

If you’ve still got IE, you definitely need to upgrade to Edge. It’s superior, merely for the frequent updates Microsoft will continue to push.

And there we have it. All in all, five of the six mainstream browsers boast a good deal of security, but Chrome and Opera come out on top.

One final reminder, though. A common factor you need to remember. Keep your browser updated.

Thanks for sticking with us. How do you feel about our findings? Which browser do you currently use and why? Are you tempted to switch to a different one? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image Credit: _nav_/Depositphotos

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  1. Gary Gemmell
    November 17, 2017 at 3:14 am

    Opera is a great browser and just gets better and better.
    I do love Chrome but Opera doesnt hoover up memory like Chrome does!

  2. Eric
    November 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    There is still some work to do, but I really like the direction of the BRAVE browser.
    I am using Firefox less each day, in part to the fact that Mozilla is pushing for Net Neutrality. And if you think Net Neutrality is a good thing, just wait til you can't afford internet.

  3. Kaitain
    November 5, 2017 at 5:05 am

    Opera was the best browser between around 1999 and 2005. By the mid 2000s other browsers had copied most of its designs and innovations. (If you went back in time to 2003, Opera would be the only browser that would seem modern.)

    I still use it on some of my older machines because it isn’t the memory-hog that Chrome is on MacOS.

  4. Wayne
    November 4, 2017 at 2:41 am

    Why I won't use Opera...
    It's now owned by the Chinese.

  5. Tony
    November 3, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Simple answer: none. They all record data, keep logs, etc. I'll admit Firefox and Chrome have taken strides to offer better security in recent years, but I still never browse with a VPN. ExpressVPN, Nord, Ivacy, etc. offer logless browsing with encrypted servers. Hell, ExpressVPN even came out with its own browser extension a few months ago. Using a VPN has become like second nature for me now.

    • Anony Mouse
      November 4, 2017 at 10:48 am

      "Hell, ExpressVPN even came out with its own browser extension a few months ago. "

      And NordVPN too!

  6. dragonmouth
    November 3, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    It is ludicrous to consider any browser that reports home on its users' browsing habits as "secure". Four of the six browsers mentioned (IE, Edge, Chrome and Safari) by definition should be considered INSECURE. Unfortunately, Google has corrupted Firefox code so that it too reports to Google. So Firefox is insecure. I do not use Opera so I do not know if it contains any code that forces it to also report to Google.

    "This isn’t about Linux or Mac or Windows desktop."
    Oh, but it most definitely is! Any browser written specifically for Linux or BSD, such as Midori or Arora, is inherently more secure than one written specifically for Windows or Mac. Unless, of course, Google has managed to gets its tentacles into that code.

  7. Gazoo
    November 3, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Browsers that track you, collect usage data, store that data, share that data /=/ secure. Some of these browsers do not deserve the extensive, back-bending, write-up they got - regardless of usage share. Even a privacy-respecting browser on an Operating System whose main purpose is to surveil users, can no longer be considered safe to use.

    We need to start seeing extensive articles about the kinds of surveillance Mainstream Browsers engage in. Which is the worst from this standpoint. What kinds of tricks do they engage in, what kinds of surveillance do these browsers do when you aren't even using their browser (on the web, on your OS, etc).

    Which ones are the most transparent as to their data-collection and tracking activities. Is there any accountability for their actions or when their data is hacked or shared. Who are they sharing this data with?

    Anything else is a parody of 'A Brave New World'.

    • Nez
      November 3, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      This right here, agreed 100%.

    • byo
      November 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Agreed. We need some accountability laws that make search engines liable for data breaches and require them to list for users exactly how and what they track and store. Anything less is a breach of privacy. When Google knows more about you than all the members of your family combined, something is out-of-hand and grossly wrong.