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Microsoft: Nothing to gain from Firefox flaws

Chinks in the armor of the open-source rival to IE don't benefit anyone, Microsoft security advisor says.

Microsoft claims it has not gained anything from the recent spate of security flaws that have been discovered in Firefox, even though the open-source browser is a rising rival to the software giant's Internet Explorer.

Peter Watson, chief security advisor at Microsoft Australia and New Zealand, told ZDNet Australia that the software maker did not get any pleasure from seeing Firefox suffer a string of security vulnerabilities, despite the open-source browser's growth seemingly being stunted over recent months.

"I don't think it creates any benefit for us or anybody in the ecosystem to turn around and say, 'It's good that this company has a whole load of security vulnerabilities'," said Watson.

The Mozilla Foundation launched Firefox last November with the argument that people would be safer if they switched over from IE.

However, as Firefox's popularity has grown--the browser captured more than 5 percent of the browser market in its first six months--a significant number of flaws have been discovered.

Last month, Symantec published a report that claimed Mozilla's browsers were less secure than Microsoft's IE.

Watson was humble in his assessment of Firefox's security issues, claiming that all new technologies are targeted by criminals: "Every new technology that comes out, somebody at some time will try and look for a way to exploit that for illegal purposes."

Watson explained that Microsoft's goal is to help build a secure and reliable platform for its own--and rival--technologies.

"Our whole strategy around trustworthy computing is that we want the computing platform to be as reliable as possible," he said.

Watson's attitude is not surprising, according to James Turner, security analyst at Frost & Sullivan, who said Microsoft would "save millions" if security were no longer an issue.

"Microsoft is not a security company. For them, every dollar they have to spend on R&D in security is dissipation from R&D for their productivity tools. It's reasonable to assume that Microsoft would love all the viruses and worms to vanish overnight. It would save them millions and millions of dollars,' said Turner.

However, Turner admitted that Microsoft could be hiding its satisfaction at Mozilla's despair for other reasons.

"No one in their right mind would gloat over the vulnerabilities of a rival, because pride comes before the fall," he said.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.