Microsoft launches Firefox, Chrome attack campaign

With YourBrowserMatters.org, Microsoft falls back to its old deceptive tricks to try and shoo users away from Chrome and Firefox

In what has become a classic Microsoft-ism, the folks in Redmond on Tuesday launched a website to convince the world that Internet Explorer is the only true safe browser, at least in comparison to Chrome and Firefox. The site YourBrowserMatters.org rates the security of browsers on a 1-4 scale. It tells those who use Firefox and Chrome why their browsers don't rate -- and is pretty much not interested in any other browsers.

The site launched on the same day that Microsoft fixed a critical hole affecting all versions of Internet Explorer and Windows, that, left unpatched, could help spread viruses.

The Microsoft site tells me that Internet Explorer 9 rates 4 out 4 in security features.

Firefox 7 on Windows 7 rates a 2

Chrome 14 rates a 2.5.

Yourbrowsermatters.org

However, it's not an equal opportunity site. When I visited it with other browsers including Safari on Windows, Safari on a Mac, or the old Netscape browser, now known as SeaMonkey, the site told me:

Your Browser Matters Safari

So, I guess your browser only matters if it is one of the two browsers that has been enticing users away from Internet Explorer the way chocolate eclairs entice pastry lovers to indulge and enjoy. (I mean, seriously, who doesn't love chocolate eclairs?)

Also funny, the site rated Firefox 3 running on my Ubuntu machine a mere 1.5 out of 4.

What does a score of 4 mean? It means that the browser includes all of the security features that Internet Explorer has, at least according to Microsoft's ideas. These are in four categories: Dangerous Downloads, Phishinig Websites, Attacks on Your Browser, and Attacks on Websites.

Only the scoring is none too accurate. For instance, the site gives Chrome no points for these two criteria on dangerous downloads:

  • Does the browser help protect you from websites that are known to distribute socially engineered malware?
  • Does your browser provide a distinct warning when you download an application that is of higher risk but not yet confirmed as malware?

But Chrome does block sites that distributes malware and Chrome does warn users when downloading "higher" risk files such as .exe files.

To be sure, YourBrowserMatters.org is not a non-profit organization, as the "org" URL suggests, but an attack campaign by Microsoft in a long line of similar attack campaigns. Perhaps the most famous was Microsoft's "Get The Facts" site that targeted Linux. The information presented on it was heavily disputed by the Linux community as being full of falsehoods. Microsoft killed that site in 2007. But it tried again with a Microsoft IE8 “Get the facts” site, which was again filled with things that looked like facts, but were provable otherwise.

Microsoft does have a valid reason for wanting more users to adopt IE -- its SmartScreen technology, which scans websites for malware and then warns or blocks other IE users from accessing the site. The more IE users that participate, the more accurate it can be about which sites are really distributing malware.

Not that Microsoft can be trusted to want to get that right. Earlier in the month, its free malware tool, Microsoft Security Essentials, decided that Chrome was malware and began removing it from people's computers. Microsoft was forced to cut that out when Google called Microsoft on the carpet over it.

So here's an idea. Microsoft, if you want people to use IE over any other browser, make a better, faster, browser.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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