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Free Tool Scans Your PC for Missing Patches

A number of past Security Fix postings lamented the lack of a free software tool that Windows computer users could use to quickly and easily scan their machines for missing patches for the myriad applications that run on top of Windows. Well, I was surprised to stumble across such a tool this week while scrounging for some past patch information over at vulnerability watcher Secunia's site.

In addition to checking whether you have the latest Microsoft Windows patches installed, the Secunia Software Inspector looks for outstanding updates for popular communications software such as Skype, instant-message applications, Web browsers Firefox and Opera, as well as multimedia applications such as Adobe Reader, QuickTime, iTunes, Macromedia Flash Player, Sun's Java JRE, and Winamp.

What I like most about this tool is that you don't need to install any software to use it: You can run the scanner straight from the Secunia site (you will need to at least temporarily allow Secunia.com to serve Javascript if you have blocked Javascript in Internet Explorer settings or with the Firefox "noscript" extension.

I ran the quick scan on my main home PC and the whole process took about 10 seconds. Secunia gave me a clean bill of health, but said my copy of Internet Explorer 7 was missing the patch released on Tuesday for a critical flaw in the browser. At first I thought that was odd, because I had installed the IE patch already (of course). Then I figured it out -- I hadn't rebooted the machine yet for the patch to take effect.

Annoyingly, the program also found no fewer than three previous (i.e. vulnerable) versions of plugins for Adobe's Macromedia Flash player stored in the \Windows\System32 folder, including one dating back to at least 2002. I'm not entirely sure whether the presence of these older plug-ins is a security risk, but it seems to me that Adobe's installers should clean up after themselves better than this.

If you have time for a more thorough scanning of your machine (especially if you have multiple hard drives), consider selecting the "enable thorough system inspection" option. This option, which can take quite a bit longer than the quick scan, searches for older, unpatched applications in non-standard locations on your system (i.e., not in the usual "My Programs" folder).

By Brian Krebs  |  January 11, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  New Patches , Safety Tips  
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