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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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RE: It's important to remember
By mindless1 on 12/4/2007 9:49:45 AM , Rating: 2
in summary, jump through a lot of hoops while suggesting the user is at fault.

No, the user of a general purpose monopoly OS merely surfing the web should not have to be a security guru, and indeed it is fairly clear most are not so they are the target users, the standard against which a general purpose browser must be designed.


RE: It's important to remember
By mechBgon on 12/4/2007 8:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
in summary, jump through a lot of hoops while suggesting the user is at fault.


I could make a rather good analogy with the safety features of your car, such as seatbelts, headlights and windshield wipers. It's not unfair to expect you to know what they're for and to use them, even if they're not automatic, and even if you don't intend to do something stupid that causes a collision.

quote:
No, the user of a general purpose monopoly OS merely surfing the web should not have to be a security guru, and indeed it is fairly clear most are not so they are the target users, the standard against which a general purpose browser must be designed.


If there's a browser/OS that does fit your description, then in my opinion it would be IE7 in Protected Mode on Windows Vista, which is the default setup. No guru qualifications required, and no hoops to jump through. Stuff runs with the non-Admin part of your token and WIC watches over it to prevent hostile actions against system files. Thus, mitigation of working exploits is already planned into the OS and browser. Other browsers don't get the entire benefit of Vista's protection, but they do get some of it.

On WinXP/2000, I think the best advice is the advice I already gave, regardless of one's browser of choice. Where possible, using a disallowed-by-default Software Restriction Policy is also a good idea: http://www.mechbgon.com/srp


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