So, your Windows updates are all current. Your virus scanner is current. Good to go right? Wrong. Windows update and your virus scanner only updates Microsoft products and your virus scanner respectively. What about Adobe Reader, Flash, Java, Firefox, Chromium, and other third party applications? Are they up to date? How do you know? Why do you care?
Let’s start with why you need to care. You need to care because the third party applications that we use are subject to security vulnerabilities just like the operating systems are. Software vendors are constantly looking for bugs and releasing patches to eliminate the vulnerabilities they do find. The bad guys are always on the look out for third party vulnerabilities as well. They will use them to try and take control of your system for ugly purposes. Security firm Secunia is reporting that third party vulnerabilities are now seen as the biggest risk to computer security. Think of Windows updates as locking the front door and virus scanner updates as locking the back door. Third party updates would then be the equivalent of locking the windows in your home. The bad guys will take any means they can find to break in. Getting in through a window is just as good as getting in through a door. Once you’re in, you’re in. If you don’t have an IT department or if you are the IT department, it’s your job to lock things down.
How do you know if your applications are up to date? These days, most of them come with an update utility. So, you could go to every single third party application and run the update utility to make sure you have the most current version. If they don’t have an update utility built in, you’ll have to go to the company website and see if you have the most current version. As you can see, you don’t have to have very many applications installed for this process to become excruciating. Fortunately, there is a much better solution. Secunia’s Personal Security Inspector (PSI) is a small tool that scans your computer for third party applications, then compares the versions on your computer to a database listing the most current versions. A report is generated, listing anything that is out of date. In Easy Mode, you simply press a button and your web browser is pointed to the vendor’s download page where you can get the updated version. PSI is a simple, easy to use piece of software that should be a vital part of your security arsenal. When scanning my own Windows XP machine, I found that I was embarrassingly out of date on a number of apps. I recommend you get your copy today. Best news of all? It’s free for personal use.