Menu
Microsoft boosts anti-phishing skills of Chrome, the IE and Edge killer

Microsoft boosts anti-phishing skills of Chrome, the IE and Edge killer

Redmond releases add-on for Chrome – dubbed 'Windows Defender Browser Protection' – effectively giving up a major asset in its own Edge browser

Microsoft has ceded a major asset of its Edge browser to rival Google by releasing an add-on that boosts Chrome's phishing detection skills.

Redmond had little choice, according to one analyst. "Phishing is a huge problem, and people are going to use the browser they use," said Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft. "They're doing this to protect the Windows ecosystem."

Dubbed Windows Defender Browser Protection (WDBP), the free extension can be added to Chrome on Windows or macOS, and after a post-launch fix, Chrome OS as well.

Like the defences built into Edge, the add-on relies on Microsoft's SmartScreen technology that warns users of potentially malicious websites that may try to download malware to the machine or of sites linked in email messages that lead to known phishing URLs.

Microsoft keeps a constantly-changing list of these likely bad destinations on its servers, that list generated in part from telemetry sent by SmartScreen users.

At least that's what it appears WDBP does: Microsoft has not documented the extension's operation beyond some general information on its site and in the description on the Chrome Web Store.

In the latter, Microsoft said: "If you click a malicious link in an email or navigate to a site designed to trick you into disclosing financial, personal or other sensitive information, or a website that hosts malware, Windows Defender Browser Protection will check it against a constantly updated list of malicious URLs known to Microsoft." That is SmartScreen.

wdbp for Chrome Microsoft

Microsoft now offers its SmartScreen anti-phishing and anti-malware technology to users of rival Chrome, a move one analyst described as "self defense."

In its online pitch for WDBP, Microsoft cited 2017 research from NSS Labs, which pegged Edge as the browser best able to block phishing and socially-engineered malware attacks, sniffing out 99 per cent of all attempts while Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox found 87 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively.

Those two rivals each relied on Google's Safe Browsing API.

Which raises an obvious question. Why has Microsoft ceded one of the few advantages of its own Edge to a competitor's browser?

Cherry believes Microsoft was faced with the devil's choice: Protect the majority of Windows users or only those running Edge (or the obsolete, legacy Internet Explorer).

"Edge has not caught on," Cherry noted, referring to its low usage statistics on Windows 10. "But if people fall for phishing, they're not going to point a finger at the browser, which is just an application. They're going to ask [Microsoft] 'Why didn't you protect Windows?' This is just a self-defence move."

Edge, which is approaching its third-year launch anniversary, has been unable to attract a sizeable audience. The latest data from analytics vendor Net Applications put Edge's share of all browsers at just four per cent, and its share on Windows 10 only at 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, Chrome was the preferred choice of 61 per cent of the world's online population.

There are other reasons for Microsoft's sharing largess.

With Edge and IE accounting for only a slice of Internet users - Net Applications put it as a combined 18 per cent during March - Microsoft was not getting the amount of telemetric data, crucial to SmartScreen, that it once received.

"The simplest explanation of Microsoft's motivation for offering SmartScreen on Chrome is that it gives the company visibility on the bad stuff encountered by the 60 per cent of the market that uses Chrome," wrote John Dunn in a post to a blog maintained by security company Sophos.

"This, in turn, helps Microsoft's Office 365 Exchange email service offer better protection to compete with Google's rival G Suite."

True. Microsoft has baked SmartScreen into more than just Edge and Internet Explorer. Its Outlook.com web-based email service and Outlook email client - the latter an important part of Office 365 - as well as its Exchange email server, all turn to SmartScreen to fight phishing and malware.

With a shrinking share of the browser market - at Edge's introduction in mid-2015, Internet Explorer owned 53 per cent - Microsoft may have realised it was not getting enough data from browser users to fuel SmartScreen.

That rationale plays to Microsoft's focus, which is on the enterprise; without sufficient data for SmartScreen, business tools such as Outlook and Exchange might lose the ability to correctly detect malicious URLs.

Windows Defender Browser Protection can be downloaded from Google's Chrome Web Store.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CloudMicrosoftGooglesoftwaresophosInternet Explorerchrome

Featured

Slideshows

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

The 2019 Reseller News Innovation Awards has kicked off with the Judges Lunch in Auckland with 70 judges in the voting panel. The awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors. Photos by Christine Wong.

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch
Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

The channel came together for the inaugural Reseller News Emerging Leaders Forum in New Zealand, created to provide a program that identifies, educates and showcases the upcoming talent of the ICT industry. Hosted as a half day event, attendees heard from industry champions as keynoters and panelists talked about future opportunities and leadership paths and joined mentoring sessions with members of the ICT industry Hall of Fame. The forum concluded with 30 Under 30 Tech Awards across areas of Sales, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Management, Technical and Human Resources. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019
Show Comments