With Less Users, IE has become Insecure

As Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) has become less popular to users, it has become a vulnerability.  It appears that IE quality is consistent with its popularity.  There are a number of factors to IE decline.  Microsoft is one of the rare browsers that is not HTML5 compliant.  Mobile devices Android/iPhone continue to make up more of the browser space.  It is apparent that IE’s insecurity is related to its popularity and importance to Microsoft.

Rise of IE vulns

Chart 1: Percentile of Users By Browser

In 2003, about 85% of all systems were running IE.  Then began the rise of Firefox, which was only a transition to the new king, Google’s Chrome.  In 2013, Chrome broke the 50% mark, while IE fell below 10%.  Combined Chrome-Firefox now makes up the 85% mark of dominance. Chart 1 shows the inverse relationship between the rise of Chrome and the fall of IE, the critical year being 2011.Decline of IE

Chart 2: Number of High Vulnerability by Browser

If we were to search the National Vulnerability Database, and review the number of high vulnerabilities over this same time period, we would see that the fall of IE popularity precedes the rise in vulnerabilities.  This makes sense.  With less popularity is less perceived related revenue.  This in turn means less programmers and less quality assurance.  Chart 2 shows the number of vulnerabilities by browser.  The critical year for Microsoft here is 2013.  With 18 month development windows, it shows that the decline really started in late 2011.

Despite popular belief of IE problems in the 2k era, the IE was one of the most secure browsers and required for compatibility by many vendors.  But that requirement needs to be questioned as of late based on two factors: its inability to meet HTML5 standards and the number of vulnerabilities in its code.  Besides a name change, which Microsoft is thinking about doing, what is missing in IE is leadership and a drive for quality.

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