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Munir Kotadia

Special to CNET

Just days after the launch of open-source browser Firefox 1.0, Microsoft executives defended Internet Explorer, saying it is no less secure than any other browser and doesn’t lack any important features.

At a security roundtable discussion in Sydney on Thursday, Ben English, Microsoft’s security and management product manager, told attendees that IE undergoes “rigorous code reviews” and is no less secure than any other browser.

“Because IE is ubiquitous, you hear a lot more about it, but I don’t think that Internet Explorer is any less secure than any other browser out there,” English said.

Steve Vamos, Microsoft Australia’s managing director, agreed, saying he does not believe IE’s market share is under attack following the recent high-profile debut of the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox browser.

Vamos said that although he has heard other people mention the competitive threat posed by Firefox, he doesn’t see it as a problem.

“I’m not sure that that is the reality. I have seen comments around that, but there is nothing I can refer to that really supports that,” he said. Instead, Vamos said, consumers need to be educated about all the features already offered by Microsoft’s browser.

“We probably need to do a bit of work to communicate the features that are in IE,” he said.

Vamos, who admitted he has never used Firefox, said there is a lot of hype surrounding the open-source movement and that if Microsoft’s customers wanted new features, they would have told the company about it.

“I don’t agree that just because a (competing) product has a feature that we don’t have, that feature is important,” he said. “It is not. It is only important if it is a feature the customer wants. There are plenty of products out there with features we don’t have. We have plenty of features that our customers don’t use.

“If there are features in our products that are subpar or need to be added, then I have great confidence that we are an organization that responds pretty quickly and effectively to that.”

English reiterated that features such as tabbed browsing are not important to IE users.

“I don’t believe it is a true statement that IE doesn’t have the features that our customers want,” he said. “We take user feedback very seriously. If you have that feedback, then you should feed it back to us because we will feed it to the product team.”

Ross Fowler, managing director of Cisco Systems Australia and New Zealand, said the networking giant uses IE internally but only after deploying Cisco’s Secure Agent, which is a desktop utility that monitors all activity and alerts the user if it spots something unusual–such as a keystroke-logging program.

“Internally, we have deployed Cisco Secure Agent to prevent those day-zero attacks, and we have more and more of our customers–particularly in the university sector–deploying the Cisco Secure Agent,” Fowler said.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.