Is Opera *really* the safest browser?

Filed Under: Apple Safari, Featured, Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Malware, Vulnerability

An online poll conducted on the Naked Security site has come up with an interesting finding: Opera, a relative minnow in the web browser market, is reckoned to be a more secure browser than the likes of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer.


Poll results, Thursday noon. Click to vote for your favourite

We were interested in discovering which browser our readers would recommend to friends or family who had suffered a computer security problem.

The poll opened on the morning of Monday 3rd September, and saw Chrome and Firefox take an early lead with Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera lagging far far behind.

Everything changed yesterday, however, as Opera surged in its share of the vote. The Norwegian browser - which had earlier only been receiving less than two votes every hour suddenly was receiving five votes every minute!

Impressive for a browser which has a much smaller marketshare than the big players.

Voting. Click for larger version

So, what happened? Had thousands of people suddenly woken up to the realisation that Opera *was* their favourite browser, and that they should vote for it instead of Chrome or Firefox?

Well, we did a little digging around and found that Opera's marketing department wasn't resting on its laurels.

The guys and gals at Opera tweeted and posted on Facebook, inviting their fans to participate in the poll.

Opera tweet. Click for larger version

Opera has some 1.7 million fans on Facebook, so it's really no surprise to see some of them vote for their browser of choice. And sure enough, straight after Opera publicised the poll via social media, the votes for Opera began to flood in.

Opera votes surge. Click for larger version

As of midday in the UK, Opera had raced into the lead.

We don't actually mind that Opera publicised our browser poll - after all, we didn't say that vendors were bound from rallying their supporters. If anything, Opera's marketroids have shown some admirable velocity in encouraging their fans to take part.

But we do suspect that our (admittedly unscientific) poll may have been skewed somewhat by this spike in Opera-loving votes. (Interestingly, there was also a synchronous rise in votes for Opera's rivals - presumably from those who follow Opera on social networks, but aren't necessarily diehard fans).

So, come on Firefox lovers and those of you who think Chrome is the greatest thing since Netscape Navigator - what are you waiting for? There's still time to cast your vote!

And is there really no-one who has a good word to say about Internet Explorer?

Internet Explorer's poor showing

If you have an explanation for IE's poor showing, or think Opera is right to be considered the safest browser, or have any other opinions on the survey - why not leave a comment below?

Thanks to Sara Warner for helping crunch the data, necessary to write this article.

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44 Responses to Is Opera *really* the safest browser?

  1. Goddamnit! · 1087 days ago

    Voted for Opera after reading this article.

    • Graham Cluley · 1087 days ago

      Good - they need more votes.

      • Vetal · 1083 days ago

        You can't blame Opera or any browser maker of the results except for yourself. You put a poll out for people to vote on the browser they felt was most secure, but the poll and title of article says "Which web browser do you recommend?" People are going to easily more than likely vote for their favorite browser. Opera mentioned the poll and never asked their users to vote for Opera, but I'm sure it helped them. But if you are looking at the poll as it should be... with Opera ahead at the moment, wouldn't you still think that maybe not all votes for Opera is about favorites, but that maybe it is a very secure and safe browser? I never hear much about security issues with Opera as often as the others. Although, most importantly, the browser also is only as safe as the user behind it and where they browse. I have used all the browsers with no issues yet, so....idk.

  2. Ruth · 1087 days ago

    I don't use any of them, Use to use Google Chrome & IE but have switched to Comodo Dragon for the security & much better game performance.

    • Jay · 1082 days ago

      I dealt with Dragon for a while, but it's hard to use it with Amazon and Ebay? perhaps a testament to its security, hahaha.

  3. Marilyn · 1087 days ago

    IE is very problematic & definitely less secure! Gobbles up memory too! I have had nothing but problems with it for years now.

  4. Joe · 1087 days ago

    Popularity as a substitute for objective analysis? Sounds like US election campaigns. How about some science, since you started this?

  5. Mat · 1087 days ago

    Considering this is poll is based on opinion, the results are irrelevant anyway. This is more like asking what is your favorite browser. I'd prefer a real analysis over this sort of thing.

  6. Ryan · 1087 days ago

    When I voted for Opera, it had like 20 votes.
    I remember helping to rig a poll a few years back for Rick Astley to win an MTV music award. My script on firefox did something like 23m votes for him. :D

  7. Brad Levy · 1087 days ago

    The first poll results graphic lists some items twice. And two paragraphs below, the following is self-contradictory:

    "The poll opened on the morning of Monday 3rd September, and saw Chrome and Firefox take an early lead with Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome lagging far far behind."

    Kind of makes it harder to follow the article.

    • Graham Cluley · 1087 days ago

      Apologies - we clearly need to fire whoever proofread this article. Oh darn, that was me..

      Hey ho. Anyway, now fixed (I hope).

  8. Kevin · 1087 days ago

    Edit - The poll opened on the morning of Monday 3rd September, and saw Chrome and Firefox take an early lead with Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome lagging far far behind.

  9. Sam Hunter · 1087 days ago

    I am of the opinion that IE isn't necessarily the most insecure browser. Rather, it's installbase is massive making it's attack surface a very attractive target for malware.

    After all, if you were going to attempt to make the most impact, would you attack the least likely browser to be installed? It makes sense that one would author to take advantage of the 90% vs. the 10%.

    • Andrew Ludgate · 1087 days ago

      This poll isn't really about the security of the listed browsers: it's about user trust in those browsers. What this really says is that Opera users really trust their browsers, as do Chrome users and Firefox users. IE users don't trust their browser.

      You do have a point though; the most famous browser is likely to be much less trusted to withstand an attack targeting it than the most obscure browser is (to be trusted to withstand an attack targeting the most famous).

  10. Pamela · 1087 days ago

    I voted for Opera too before the spike. Opera was recommended to me by my friendly IT person, 2 years ago for features it had that were adopted by other browsers later.

  11. Marty · 1087 days ago

    I couldn't vote because IE crapped out on me.

    :)

  12. billblagger · 1087 days ago

    C'mon, everyone knows that A*G is the best antivirus, N*rt*n is slow and bloated, Windows sucks, Macs can't get viruses ... gimme a break here.

    • MikeP · 1086 days ago

      A*G is not the best in my opinion and experience! N*rt*n is slow and bloated and again my experience is that it's not as effective as they claim. We're rather stuck with Windows insecurity by design, sadly.
      As previous Sophos articles have pointed out, Macs CAN and DO get viruses. Even OSX is vulnerable as it's based on UNIX, as is Lunux, and that 'high end' OS has been targetted before.
      No known OS is totally free from attack opportunities, just that some OSs are more common in use and so tend to invite more attention from the nefarious who perpetrate such attacks. Even the OSs on smart phones are now prone to attacks becuse there are so many in use and many people do nothing about security.
      Just look at how many WiFi points are insecure as shown in yesterday's story on Warbiking
      https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/09/06/warbik...

  13. Sam Syed · 1087 days ago

    Well I am using opera to write this comment!
    I would definitely say that its the safest and most convinent (mobile) browser than any other. I give it more points than even UC browser (it may be the fastest but not at all the safest and no good for uploading anything). google chrome is probably going to win as the best web browser (but only for pc) while opera sure rules on the mobile platform and sure shouldn't be far behind than any as well. Its safe for sure.

  14. Richard · 1087 days ago

    I would vote in your poll, but my browser is so secure it doesn't show it! :-P

    • Nachtwaechter · 1087 days ago

      That's exactly like my opera with disabled JavaScript (I enable it for specific sites, when I need it.)

    • Symoore · 443 days ago

      So what is the name of your browser

  15. Shaaf · 1087 days ago

    I voted for opera after reading your tweet, definitely think its the safest.

  16. Faux · 1087 days ago

    I am a firefox lover but i do use IE if Firefox fails to properly display a web page which happens sometimes.

  17. clairecurtis · 1087 days ago

    Lot of parameters are missing in the poll. Early IE sucked; the most recent versin is supposed to be pretty good (though I haven't used it). Opera is great on mobile devices, but IMO less so on the desktop. Mac/Linux/PC versions differ. And so on. Makes the poll not-really-meaningful.

  18. MikeElliott · 1087 days ago

    I use a range of browsers, IE9 included. I would rate Chrome as the most secure, not due to any form of superior coding technique, but due to its simplicity. Keeping things simple prevents users being tempted to fiddle with settings and creating risks.

  19. sewjournal · 1087 days ago

    I actually posted on the FB post because I had just tried Opera for the first time and it was amazingly fast. I gave Chrome the flick but then Opera got slower and slower and slower. It crashed 4 or 5 times that first day, so I'm back with Chrome again. I'm really disappointed because it was great to have a super fast browser. Pity it only lasted for a couple of hours. :(

  20. hasan · 1087 days ago

    @PC, I offer Chrome browser to family and friends, but personally use Comodo Dragon with SecureDNS and other security feature.

    In the Mac, I use Chrome inside Dear Safari :D

  21. John Baxter · 1087 days ago

    You didn't let me vote for lynx.

  22. Freegan · 1086 days ago

    Like others, I feel more secure with Comodo Dragon but as this is a modified version of Chrome Browser, should I vote for Chrome or is Sophos going to include Dragon in the poll?

  23. Freegan · 1086 days ago

    More pertinent questions would be,

    #1
    Which browser does Sophos rate as the most secure?

    #2
    What modifications to it would they recommend?

    #3
    When are they going to produce their own secure browser?

  24. Amr Thabet · 1086 days ago

    I think Google Chrome is most secure ... from the Sandboxing mechanism and so on ... Opera maybe a good browser which include many features and good view ... but from security point of view ... I see Google Chrome is much betterI think Google Chrome is most secure ... from the Sandboxing mechanism and so on ... Opera maybe a good browser which include many features and good view ... but from security point of view ... I see Google Chrome is much better

    IE has a very big market and many vulnerabilities ... so it became the most insecure browser ... maybe the Protected-Mode IE could be better ... but not like Sandboxed chrome

    Also, IE has many disadvantages and less features than the others .. that makes people hate it and give it a low vote

    I think .. security is not by voting .. the vote became about "which browser you like" ... not about security .... security could be tested with the vulnerabilities and patches release .. and the danger of these vulnerabilities.

  25. Goldtop · 1086 days ago

    Sophos should please test these browsers and publish objective results. We need facts not a shouting competition.

  26. Lyman · 1086 days ago

    My vote for Opera came without any prompting...
    I have used Opera first as an alternative, then as my main browser since Windows 3.11.

    Like your own products, it is one of only a few I always recommend to friends, family and associates.

    If they somehow mess up their product, I will consider changing.

  27. aharris · 1086 days ago

    Sophos producing its own secure browser? I'd be all for that, especially if it'd be usable (just like Sophos for Mac) by us die hard Leopard PPC types!

  28. Mike · 1086 days ago

    Ref:- (Sophos should please test these browsers and publish objective results. We need facts not a shouting competition. )....

    I totally agree. Sophos have the ability to do non-biased tests accurately. I love Firefox but, unless you have a modern screamingly fast PC, it's a pain in the butt when trying to watch BBC iPlayer or Youtube. I've got an excellent 13 Mbps line but FF still stutters on HD stuff. If you download the video and play it back, it runs perfectly - so FF does have a problem (plugin container...??? again...!!!).

  29. freedie · 1085 days ago

    I use and highly rate IE. I feel better now for having put that online!

  30. Terry Hollett · 1085 days ago

    I've been using it as my main browser for a few years now. Like all browsers it's got a few glitches here and there but I have yet to see a tool-bar that can install itself on Opera. I had a site at geocities.com that would display a panel of ads down the right hand side of the page. Opera was the only browser that would automatically block the ads from displaying without any extensions. Opera didn't even support extensions at the time.

  31. internet explorer · 1082 days ago

    IMHO, the easy winner should be Firefox, thanks in large part to the NoScript add-on. I wouldn't go on the internet without it these days.

  32. patrick · 926 days ago

    I use Opera for two reasons: 1) integrated mail, works great, 2) the add-ons don't become obsolete every other week as they do in Firefox.

    I don't use Internet Explorer, Safari and Google Chrome for one reason: too bigbrotherish.

  33. Opera is the fastest browser, but it's not open source, so it can never truly be the more secure browser. However, since Opera has such lower market share it will generally be exploited less.

    I like opera, but it has a bit of a closed model at times and it feels like it wants to lock me into the Opera framework, but it's much faster than Firefox or Chrome, it's generally more stable, but it will always be questionable how secure it is.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at https://grahamcluley.com, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley