Letter #2: Firefox will never be as big a target as IE

When asked which browser will win them over -- Internet Explorer or Firefox -- SearchWindowsSecurity.com readers' choices are clear. Read one of six letters to the editor.

When asked which browser will ultimately win them over -- Internet Explorer of Firefox -- SearchWindowsSecurity.com readers have a lot to say. The following commentary is one of six letters to the editor describing why readers are sticking with IE or why they switched to Firefox. Some also offer best practices to help you lock down Internet use in spite of browser weaknesses. Click for the complete series.

Letter #2: Firefox will never be as big a target as IE

Reader: Bob
Manager of Information Systems
Non-profit agency
Worcester, Mass.

Environment: Small non-profit agency that supports Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT and Windows 98.

Internet Explorer or Firefox: Firefox and Opera

Why Firefox and Opera: From my earliest days with "Windoze," I found the IE user interface frustrating and non-intuitive. I used Netscape at every opportunity. When that started to become bloated, I tried Opera and loved it. It has remained my browser of choice since then, in spite of occasional problems -- both malicious and innocent -- with certain sites. The ongoing barrage of security issues with IE has only made my avoidance of IE stronger.

The Firefox interface is more familiar to IE users, and it seems to have fewer site-specific issues than Opera. While I have had little success encouraging users to browse with Opera, I find they're comfortable using Firefox.

On new systems, we are installing Firefox as the default browser and removing the IE shortcut from the desktop and the Start menu. When current systems are serviced, we're doing the same to them. Of the 16 workstations at our primary site, Firefox has been installed on four.

Firefox as a future attack target: I'm not concerned about seeing as many attacks against Firefox. Some of the attacks on IE are purely the work of people who hate Microsoft. These individuals will change their focus to other Microsoft applications, not other Web browsers. But indeed the size of the user base has a direct impact on this.

As Firefox usage grows, more and more Web site creators will make certain their sites plays well with Firefox, which will further increase Firefox usage. With increased usage, spammers, spyware and malware producers and virus and Trojan crackers will all work harder to find holes. Furthermore, the community of programmers who examine the code and work to eliminate holes will also grow. Yes, I think it will be a growing target, but I don't think it will ever be as big a target as IE.

What Microsoft should do to fix browser problems: Take IE out of Windows, buy Opera and bundle Opera, Netscape, Firefox and other free browsers with Windows. They certainly have no problem bundling ISP offerings! Let the users decide which browser they prefer.

How to enforce safe browsing: CERT offers "low-tech" security alerts as well as informational articles targeted to non-technical people. These are forwarded to all our users in an effort to keep them aware and informed about privacy and security on the Internet. We have been developing a policy, but it hasn't yet become official and we've made no effort to enforce it to date.

For more letters to the editor, click for the complete series.

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