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One in four don't clean their stinky old browsers - especially Firefoxers

Mens sana in browsere sano, says Kaspersky

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Nearly one in four netizens are using outdated web browsers and are therefore easy pickings for viruses and exploit-wielding crooks.

The average home user upgrades his or her browser to the latest version one month after it is released, according to a survey of 10 million punters. Two thirds of those using old browser software are simply stuck on the version prior to the latest release - the remaining third are using even older code.

Internet Explorer is the most popular browser (used by 37.8 per cent of consumers), closely followed by Google Chrome (36.5 per cent). Firefox is in third place with 19.5 per cent.

Firefox users tend to be the worst for keeping up to date with new software releases, according to the survey by security biz Kaspersky Lab. The proportion of users with the most recent version installed was 80.2 per cent for Internet Explorer and 79.2 per cent for Chrome, but just 66.1 per cent for Firefox.

Old-codgers Internet Explorer 6 and 7, with a combined share of 3.9 per cent, are still used by hundreds of thousands of punters worldwide.

Andrey Efremov, director of whitelisting and cloud infrastructure research at Kaspersky, said: "Our new research paints an alarming picture. While most users make a switch to the most recent browser within a month of the update, there will still be around a quarter of users who have not made the transition. That means millions of potentially vulnerable machines, constantly attacked using new and well-known web-born threats."

Even though application and operating system developers can be swift to fix security holes and release new version, clearly not everyone updates swiftly enough. There are enough potential victims to lure in criminals, who exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers and plugins to install malware capable of raiding online bank accounts and worse.

The statistics were drawn from the web usage patterns of 10 million randomly selected Kaspersky Lab consumer customers worldwide, collected during August 2012. The data from business customers does not feature in the study.

Nonetheless, lessons learned from study are relevant to business. Employees typically lack the privileges to upgrade their work PC software, so it's the responsibility of the IT dept to juggle rolling out upgrades with ensuring new browser versions are compatible with the business's apps.

The Russian security firm's full Global Web Browser Usage and Security Trends report, which includes secure web-browsing tips and recommendations for consumers and businesses alike, is available for download here as a PDF. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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