The browser, released in March with a number of enhanced phishing and anti-malware components, blocked an average of 81 percent of socially engineered malware and stopped 83 percent of suspected phishing sites -- topping four other major browsers, according to new tests conducted by NSS Labs.
NSS based its findings on two weeks of analyzing 593 phishing sites and 608 unique URLS that contained malicious software, Rick Moy, the company's president, told SCMagazineUS.com on Thursday.
“Everyone thinks Microsoft stinks at security,” he said. “They need to get some credit for some of the good stuff they've done. Microsoft has been a big target for attacks for a long time, and that's actually a benefit to them. They've learned how they can turn that around and protect themselves better."
A Microsoft spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
In catching and stopping socially engineered malware, a significant drop-off occurred after the Microsoft browser. Firefox 3 was next in line, blocking 27 percent. Apple's Safari 4 thwarted 21 percent, followed by Google Chrome (seven percent) and Opera 10 (one percent).
The browsers, as a group, performed relatively better in offering phishing protection. Firefox deterred 80 percent of suspected fraud sites, Opera caught 54 percent, followed by Chrome (26 percent) and Safari (two percent).
"It's pretty shocking how bad some of the vendors are doing," Moy said. "Everyone should challenge their assumptions and look at some real data when they're making decisions [on which browser to use].”
He added that success rates also could have a lot to do with how many financial resources are available to the browser provider.
"Why would you even think Opera would have a fighting chance?" Moy said.
Spokespeople at Apple, Google and Opera did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.