Mozilla: Firefox Users, Check Your Plug-ins
Mozilla is now offering Firefox users a simple way to tell whether the browser's various plug-ins are up-to-date with the latest security patches.
Plug-ins are components installed by third-party software that power videos, animation and games in the browser, among other things. Outdated plug-ins can give malware an easy way into your computer, so it's important to make sure your browser has the latest, most secure versions. Even if you are normally vigilant about updating third-party software, occasionally a software update will fail to automatically patch its accompanying plug-in.
Enter Mozilla's Plugin Check: Let it scan Firefox, and it will tell you which of the plug-ins you have installed needs patching. (A screen shot of the results of a scan done on my test machine is pictured above). Any outdated plug-ins for which Plugin Check can find an updated version will land at the top of the list, and when you click the "update" tab, Mozilla will send you to the software vendor's download page to grab the latest version.
But then I noticed that the site was only showing me half of my installed plug-ins. When I clicked the "view all your plugins" link, the page revealed that it was unable to detect the current version of five other installed plug-ins. The site does, however, offer a "Research" tab that essentially automates a Google search query on the name of the plug-in and the term "current version."
In any event, Mozilla says it is adding more detection capability. Still, a notice that the service can't detect a current plug-in version should alert you to potentially outdated plug-ins and associated programs. Kudos to Mozilla for providing this useful service, which Mozilla says eventually will be incorporated into the browser itself.
If you use Firefox, take a second to visit the Plugin Check page. Please consider posting your results in the comments section below.
Some readers may not understand the difference between plug-ins, "add-ons" and "extensions" in Firefox. Plug-ins most often are installed by third-party programs, and handle certain types of content that Web sites offer, such as the display of PDF documents or QuickTime videos. Extensions refer to add-ons that introduce new features to Firefox, such as Noscript, Adblock Plus, and Firebug. An add-on is a more general term that can include plug-ins, extensions, and themes.
October 14, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
Categories: New Patches , Safety Tips | Tags: firefox, mozilla, plugin check
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