Many people know that they should be patching their Operating System (especially Windows!), and have been made painfully aware that if they don't keep their OS up-to-date with the latest security patches, their system can become infected with viruses, which could have otherwise been avoided had they simply run the Automatic Updates wizard and applied the latest patches to their system.
Updating more than just Windows
Something that many of us don't think about (including me, honestly) when we load up our computers with all these different applications is not only does the OS require patching, but so do many of these applications! As you can imagine, keeping up-to-date with these can quite easily become a time-consuming and/or frustrating affair.
There is hope, however...Security firm Secunia has developed a program that can help you keep track of your assortment of applications - Dubbed "Personal Software Inspector" or "PSI", the application can do this for you...
Just how easy is it?
Just Install PSI, run a scan, and within minutes you will be presented with a list of applications that need updates (or, if you are lucky, you will have none!). They even present you with an easy way of updating these applications by including a Toolbox below to quickly resolve any issues you might have.
There are a number of tabs that include options for you to browse through - the one you will be using the most is the 'Insecure' tab, which lists your insecure applications in a drop-down format, allowing you to quickly ascertain what you need to do next.
The scan is quick, and the information is easy to understand. Secunia has put a lot of time into making this application as painless as possible.
The coolest feature is the Toolbox - this is a collection of links that can help you determine what the problem is, how to solve it quickly, where to locate it on your computer, whether or not you want to ignore the problem when running subsequent scans, or if you want to head to the add/remove programs applet to uninstall or modify the installation yourself. Nifty!
With regards to ignoring an application: You can set up ignore rules from the Settings tab which will tell PSI to not scan a particular folder...pretty neat if you need to have some insecure applications installed but you don't want to have PSI bark at you every time it picks them up during a scan.
As for the rest of the application...Here's a rundown of tabs (some descriptions are directly pulled from the Secunia application):
This page displays a graphical representation of your computer's status with regards to patched vs. Insecure vs. End-of-Life vs. Secure. There is a historical graph that displays your status over a period of time (after multiple scans).
This page displays applications that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer for which there are known security updates available.
This page displays applications that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer, which the vendor no longer supports. The vendor will not issue patches or alerts regarding security issues that could expose your computer to security threats.
This page displays applications that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer for which there are no known security updates available. Newer versions may be available, however, these are not known to address security issues.
During the scan, the Secunia PSI will detect applications installed on your computer and determine whether any of them are missing any security related updates (Insecure), or whether the vendor has stopped supporting the product (End-of-Life).
Change the behaviour of the Secunia PSI using the Application Settings. Manage your Ignore Rules for applications you don't wish to see in your PSI interface.
Change and update your Secunia Profile. Having a Secunia Profile allows you to participate in upcoming events, manage your Secunia mailing list subscriptions, participate in forum discussions, access more help, assist other PSI users, and get notified about new features from Secunia.
This page allows you communicate with the Secunia staff via a submitted form.
Akin to an Anti-Virus program, Secunia PSI will run resident on your computer - this means if you install any new programs, PSI will alert you right away if it needs to be updated.
Personally, I would like to see an option to run a scheduled scan, as I don't know if I need something like this running all the time...but the idea is cool.
You can disable the active monitoring feature from the 'Settings' tab.
Scan from the WWW
Don't want to install the inspector software? Secunia also offers a website where you can run the scan from their page, using an embedded Java application. Again, the scan takes only a couple minutes and offers you ways of rectifying your "insecure" situation.
Free for personal use
Unfortunately, the installable application is free only for personal use, but you can use the web version on commercial/business computers. Also, if you are part of a business IT department, you can purchase the corporate edition.
- Easy-to-use interface - (major)
- Toolbox - this is awesome! - (major)
- Detailed information explaining somewhat confusing concepts (like having multiple versions of Java Runtime Environment, for example) - (medium)
- Overview tab with pretty graphs... - (low)
- No scheduled scan option - (medium)