Internet users have to be aware of threats coming from all angles, including hackers, malicious URLs, tracking software and even government surveillance. If you use any old browser, your data may not be secure. Here's a look at what you need to know to choose the most secure web browser.

If you're analyzing a browser's security level by looking only at its vulnerabilities, you might think Opera is the safest internet browser. Opera has only some of the known vulnerabilities that other browsers do. This quality doesn't necessarily mean that Opera is the most secure browser, however, as Opera has a small market share and an equally small number of hackers working to exploit its security flaws. Since Opera receives very infrequent security updates, malicious users have almost 50 days to take advantage of any holes they find in the browser's code.

Of all the major browsers, Firefox has the most vulnerabilities in its code, but not all of them create a major security breach. With security updates every 28 days on average, hackers don't have a lot of time to take advantage of flaws. Firefox users can get around these security issues by installing add-ons, such as NoScript Security Suite, which ban JavaScript and other code from running on websites. Users can also set Firefox to start in private mode by default, which restricts data tracking and information storage.

With more than 31 percent of the market share in the United States, Chrome is the most popular browser nationwide. Chrome is also a close second to Firefox in terms of vulnerabilities, but it ranks first for quick updates. With only about two weeks in between security updates, Chrome's developers quickly catch and address any vulnerabilities. This window period makes Chrome a relatively safe internet browser. If users have security concerns, they can use extensions like Webutation, which scores websites based on their security.

Safari generally has few vulnerabilities, but this browser also has the longest time period between security updates. This length of time means hackers have ample opportunities to take advantage of any security holes. Like some of the other major browsers, Safari users can use security add-ons such as Blur (formerly called DoNotTrackMe), which disables tracking features on websites.

Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer is the second most popular browser nationwide and ranks about average for vulnerabilities. Internet Explorer users can keep their favorite browser safe, namely by updating to the most recent version each time a security update becomes available and by using features such as tracking protection. Internet Explorer also has add-ons, like Disconnect, which alert users to tracking requests issued by the websites and allows users to deny them.

Although the bulk of internet security is in the hands of web developers, users can take responsibility for their own data by regularly updating their browsers to take advantage of security updates and using effective anti-virus or anti-spyware software. When using these tools together with the safest web browser, internet users can feel secure and in control online.

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