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A recent Microsoft took a rather insulting stab at Mozilla, so the open-source firm decide to do some trash talking of its own.

Mozilla is all hustle and bustle these days, trying to fix the remaining bugs before it rolls out its final release of the third iteration of its popular Firefox browser.

Perhaps catching wind of the press on these bugs, Microsoft released a security report on November 30, titled "Internet Explorer and Firefox Vulnerability Analysis".  The report, which examined the quantity and threat level of vulnerabilities within the two browsers, came out very strongly skewed in Microsoft's favor.  It reported that Internet Explorer experienced fewer threats across all security levels (low, medium, and high) than Firefox.  It also reported that Mozilla had to fix 199 security vulnerabilities, while in the same period of time Microsoft only had to fix 87.

Microsoft products are not always known as secure platforms, largely because they are the market leader and the biggest target for malicious attacks.  Not so, the report indicates, when it comes to Internet Explorer.

The report was produced by Microsoft's Jeff Jones, a security strategy director in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group and is available, here.

Mozilla's Mike Shaver had some choice words in response to the report.

"Just because dentists fix more teeth in America doesn't mean our teeth are worse than in Africa," he said, said left handedly comparing Internet Explorer to a festering tooth.

He continued, "It's something you'd expect from maybe an undergrad.  It's very disappointing to see somebody in a senior security position come out and say that because an organization is more transparent about their bugs and fixing them, they're somehow less secure."

Shaver says the analysis is lazy and possibly "malicious."

He does raise a valid point that Microsoft often lump several security issues together into a single "threat" that gets fixed irregularly with the arrival of the service pack.  Shaver points out that Mozilla has constantly been working to roll out fixes far more quickly than Microsoft's.  Shaver explains:
"If Mozilla wanted to do better than Microsoft on this report, we would have an easy path: stop fixing and disclosing bugs that we find in-house. It is well known that Microsoft redacts release notes for service packs and bundles fixes, sometimes meaning that you get a single vulnerability 'counted' for, say, seven defects repaired. Or maybe you don't hear about it at all, because it was rolled into SP2 and they didn't make any noise about it."

Shaver says in his blog, that we would have to be in a "parallel universe" for Microsoft to even "approach Mozilla's standard of transparency.”

In an interview with eWeek, he continued to vent, saying, "The vast majority [of the Firefox user base] is updated to the most secure version of Firefox in less than a week;  those are the things we measure and talk about publicly. Reports like [Jones'] really point the industry in a dangerous direction, which is to say you're [given an incentive] to keep [browser security fixes] quiet. That doesn't keep you safer, it just helps companies hide the real nature of what they're doing."

Earlier last month Jones had published a report on how Windows Vista was far less vulnerable than Leopard OS X or most Linux OS distributions.

Many will be sick of Microsoft and Mozilla's bickering, but when they attack each other so publicly, it’s simply hard to ignore.  This is unfortunate as it simply leaves the user feeling less secure and unsure of who to trust.

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By LeviBeckerson on 12/3/2007 4:37:38 PM , Rating: 2
I use Firefox because it doesn't open links in new, not maximized windows. That and the layout just agrees with me more.

Point of fact is that I'd still use Opera if it weren't for their wonky bars layout.

Vulnerabilities schmulnerabilties. It's all about the usability. Don't want to be the victim of an exploit? Don't do stuff that'll make you one.

RE: Vulnerabilities?
By kextyn on 12/3/2007 5:16:26 PM , Rating: 2
Which bars are you referring to in Opera? Every single bar is customizeable (position, buttons, hidden or not, etc). I honestly can't stand the default layout, but with about 20 seconds of customizing it works great.

RE: Vulnerabilities?
By darkpaw on 12/3/2007 6:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
Vulnerabilities schmulnerabilties. It's all about the usability. Don't want to be the victim of an exploit? Don't do stuff that'll make you one.

This is idiot talk no matter what browser you use. Professional criminals have no problem inserting exploit code in perfectly legitimate websites now a days. It doesn't matter if you just browse "safe" sites, you can still get code served up if you are not properly protected.

Sure, browsing high risk sites is much more likely to cause problems, but its not the only problems out there.

RE: Vulnerabilities?
By teckytech9 on 12/4/2007 12:55:16 AM , Rating: 2
Experts will agree: Firefox is really safer with NoScript!

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