| By Robert Vamosi |
Browser updates from the likes of Mozilla, Google, and — to some extent — Microsoft are coming ever more frequently. Its that a good thing?
When PC users suffering from update burnout skip some new versions of browsers, they may lose out on important security enhancements. Perhaps Mozilla and Microsoft should take a lesson from Google’s invisible Chrome updates and not brand every new release.
Updating the browser is a good security policy
One of the easiest (and easiest-to-forget) ways to keep your computer secure is to regularly update your applications — especially your browser. Using the latest browser is a critical step in the constant battle to defeat new malware. Cyber criminals know this, so they’re unleashing even more attacks on systems running older apps — such as the millions of machines still on Internet Explorer 6.
Of the big-three browsers, Google Chrome offers possibly the best approach to browser updates. Google silently and automatically pushes out new versions — end users never have to worry about, or even consider, whether they’re on the most up-to-date edition of Chrome. Often, these are tiny, under-the-hood tweaks to the browser. (If you must know, Chrome is now on version 12 — with version 13 in the queue, according to the Google Chrome Releases blog.) Chrome users could get so accustomed to this automated update system, they might fall out of practice updating their other applications.
Mozilla’s system for updating Firefox is less automated but still relatively good — and significantly better than Microsoft’s less-frequent IE update cycle. When there’s a new version of Firefox, it diligently nags you to update (or will say that a new version is available to download or beta-test). These updates often include a few new features plus important security enhancements. I’ve told Mozilla it needed to make the process easier — and they have; my last two Firefox updates were relatively painless in terms of file size and time to install.
Microsoft still uses a rather cumbersome process to keep Internet Explorer up-to-date. IE security patches (of which there are still too many) typically appear on Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday — the second Tuesday of each month. Those patches mostly address the vulnerabilities Microsoft considers most critical. Major new updates, such as IE 9, come out infrequently and usually require you to download a large file and reboot the PC at the end of the installation process. (For this and other reasons, I’m not a big fan of IE — if you haven’t already noticed from my previous columns.)