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Edge vs Chrome: Which Browser Is More Secure? A Deep Dive

The web browser is the primary attack surface for most users these days, so choosing one with robust security is crucial. Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome are two of the leading options, but which one goes further to actually keep you safe online? As a digital technology expert, I‘ve dug deep into the security architectures, vulnerability track records, and philosophy towards user protections of each browser. Let‘s compare Microsoft and Google‘s latest offerings to determine which is the more secure choice.

Common Ground: Chromium Open Source Project

First, it‘s important to understand that as of 2019, Edge and Chrome now share the same open source foundation: the Chromium project. Microsoft gave up on its own EdgeHTML rendering engine and decided to rebuild Edge as a Chromium-based browser. So from a baseline perspective, Edge and Chrome inherit the same core security benefits from Chromium, including:

  • Sandboxing: Each site is isolated in its own restricted process to contain any malicious code
  • Site Isolation: Renders pages from different sites in separate processes to prevent data leaks
  • Exploit mitigations: Compiler flags and techniques like Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Control Flow Integrity (CFI) to harden against memory corruption bugs

However, while built on the same open source foundation, Edge and Chrome are independently developed by Microsoft and Google respectively. Each company adds its own proprietary features, tweaks default settings, and can fork the Chromium codebase as they see fit. So the browsers are similar but not identical.

Divergent Approaches to Browser Security

When it comes to their unique approaches to browser security, the differences between Edge and Chrome become more apparent. A few key areas stand out:

Update Frequency and Reach

One of the most critical aspects of browser security is ensuring users are on the latest version with all known vulnerabilities patched. Here Chrome has a clear advantage. Chrome silently auto-updates whenever a new version is available, using Google‘s well established update infrastructure. With an extensive global user base, updates reach massive scale quickly. Chrome also has a rapid release cycle, pushing out a new major version every 4 weeks with security fixes.

Microsoft has greatly improved Edge‘s update story compared to the dark days of Internet Explorer, but it still lags Chrome. Edge updates ride alongside major Windows releases, which can delay patch deployment. The upside is Edge updates require less user intervention. Whereas Chrome‘s updater sometimes gets disabled by users or organizations, Edge updates are managed by Windows Update which is harder to turn off entirely.

Vulnerability Metrics

Raw vulnerability counts are a blunt metric, as not all security bugs are created equal in terms of severity and exploitability. Still, examining the vulnerability track record of each browser over time offers a useful signal of their respective security postures.

In recent years, Edge and Chrome have traded the lead in total reported vulnerabilities:

Year Edge Chrome
2020 440 360
2021 260 323
2022 227 313

Data from Hackerone

However, not all those vulns are critical. Looking only at bugs rated 9-10/10 severity paints a different picture:

Year Edge Chrome
2020 15 14
2021 12 25
2022 10 18

Data from Microsoft and Google

Over the past year, Chrome has had nearly twice as many critical vulnerabilities compared to Edge. This may reflect the extra scrutiny Chrome receives as the market leader. But it demonstrates that while quite secure, Chrome is far from flawless.

It‘s also important to look at how quickly critical vulnerabilities get patched once reported. Google‘s Project Zero research team found that in 2021, Chrome patched 94% of critical bugs within 30 days of reporting, compared to 81% for Edge. And it took Edge over twice as long as Chrome on average to fix "in the wild" vulnerabilities.

Privacy and User Protections

Privacy and security are often lumped together, but they are distinct concepts. Still, many privacy-enhancing technologies in browsers like anti-tracking and anti-fingerprinting also have clear security benefits against things like malicious tracking scripts. This is an area where Microsoft and Google‘s divergent philosophies really shine through.

Google‘s business model hinges on the collection of user data for targeted advertising. So while Chrome includes some privacy settings, the defaults are tuned to allow heavy tracking and data sharing with Google services. Chrome‘s Privacy Whitepaper makes it clear that blocking tracking could break some sites, and that anonymous user data may be used for personalization.

Microsoft takes a stronger stance on privacy, positioning Edge as "the browser that puts you in control" with tracking prevention on by default. Edge blocks trackers from sites you haven‘t visited and includes other protections like a built-in VPN. Microsoft is less dependent on user data for revenue, giving them more latitude to prioritize privacy.

Of course, Microsoft still collects its fair share of telemetry from Edge and diagnostic data from Windows. And Google does deserve credit for leading initiatives like Privacy Sandbox to develop new privacy-preserving ad technologies. But overall, Edge‘s defaults and Microsoft‘s stance make it the more privacy-friendly option out of the box.

Secure Enclaves and OS Integration

Another key difference between Edge and Chrome is how they leverage deeper integration with the underlying operating system for enhanced security. Windows 10 (and 11) includes a feature called Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) which uses Hyper-V virtualization to isolate Edge sessions in a secure container, separate from the host OS. This provides an additional layer of protection against malware and kernel exploits compared to Chrome‘s process-level sandboxing.

Edge also hooks into Windows‘ built-in antivirus and SmartScreen filtering for malware scanning and URL blocking. Chrome relies more on its own Safe Browsing API and sandbox to detect threats, rather than external OS-level scanners. Chrome does have some OS integrations on Chrome OS where Google controls the full stack. But on Windows, Edge can take advantage of more synergies with the platform thanks to Microsoft‘s ownership of both.

Mobile Browser Security

While the desktop is still where most heavy-duty web use happens, mobile browsers are increasingly important as smartphones become many users‘ primary devices. Here the playing field looks quite different. On iOS, Chrome and Edge are both just branded skins over Apple‘s WebKit rendering engine due to App Store restrictions. So their security properties are largely similar, with some user-facing feature differences.

Android is where Google‘s control gives Chrome the edge (pun intended). Chrome is the default browser on most Android devices and deeply integrated with the OS. This allows seamless updates and security enhancements like site isolation and ASLR which are trickier for third party Android browsers to consistently implement. Edge has largely the same security architecture as Chrome on Android, but suffers from update friction and lower install base as a non-default app.

Securing the Browser of the Future

Stepping back, it‘s clear that web browsers are evolving into ever more complex platforms as the web absorbs duties previously done by native apps. Cutting-edge specs like WebAssembly, WebGPU, and WebXR allow browsers to run near-native speeds, tap into low-level hardware, and power immersive experiences. At the same time, privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA are forcing browsers to rebuild their traditionally cookie-based architecture.

This means browsers are on the cusp of another major transformation, similar to the rise of HTML5 and responsive mobile web of the 2010s. Edge and Chrome are well positioned to embrace this shift thanks to their solid foundations. But they will also face new security challenges as the browser becomes more powerful and central to the computing experience.

Some key areas I expect browser security research and investment to focus on in the coming years:

Microsoft and Google both have active research teams publishing in these areas. But I‘d give Google the lead when it comes to deploying cutting-edge security innovations thanks to their rapid Chrome release cycle and control over multiple platforms.


So which is the more secure browser, Edge or Chrome? On balance, I give the slight edge to Microsoft Edge. While both browsers have extensive security architecture, Edge‘s tighter OS integration, more aggressive anti-tracking defaults, and lack of a business model based on user data collection make it more consistently privacy-preserving and secure out of the box.

That said, Google is moving Chrome in a more private direction and their update dominance and research investments still make it a highly secure choice. Those who tweak settings and prefer Chrome‘s vast extension ecosystem can use it with confidence. In truth, the differences between the two are small compared to the huge leaps in browser security over the past decade. By building on the same open source foundation and collaborating on web standards, Microsoft and Google are jointly pulling the whole browser ecosystem forward.

The modern web browser is an astoundingly complex piece of software doing a remarkable job at securing users as they navigate the chaos of the internet. No software is perfectly secure and new threats will always emerge. But as a security professional, I‘m glad to have Edge and Chrome constantly pushing each other to build a more secure web for all. The competition between tech giants is making the personal computer‘s most important app safer for the billions who rely on it every day.