Detect and fix security flaws in Windows software


Hardly a day seems to pass by without another security issue hitting the headlines and we have to update Windows or the software on our computers to patch it. With all the software on a typical PC, it can be difficult keeping up with the latest versions of everything. The solution is a utility called Secunia and this does the job for you.

Secunia is a free utility that runs on Windows 8, 7 and Vista. Sorry XP users. When it is started, it scans the disk drive looking for software. It then builds a list containing every program that it finds.

It reads the current version of each program and then goes on the internet to see if it is the latest version or whether there is a newer one that fixes security flaws or bugs. It then displays a list of the programs on the PC, starting with the ones that have updates.

 Secunia security patches

There are two views of the installed programs and the icons view is pretty, but it does not give any information about each program. Clicking the Settings link at the bottom of the window and selecting Detailed view is better.

 Secunia finds security updates

Now you can see the program name, installed version, secure version (the latest release), and the criticality. The Criticality column shows End of life for programs that have a whole new release. For example, if you have Firefox 34 and version 35 comes out, then 34 has reached the end of its life and should be replaced with 35.

If you are running Firefox 34.1 and Firefox 34.2 is released, then that is a security update or bug fix and a coloured bar shows how important it is to get that update. This can be seen with LibreOffice and Foxit Reader in the screen shot above and it ranges from green at the left to red at the right. Red is bad!

A link at the right hand side of each program can be clicked to instruct Secunia to download and install the update. However, it can be set to automatically download and install updates without you having to do a thing.

When Secunia is installed, and on the Settings, Update handling menu, there are three options. The first is to update (automatically), the second is to download only and let you update (manually), and the third is just to notify you (as in the screen shots above).

"A coloured bar shows how important it is to get that update"

There is an option to automatically start Secunia with Windows and then it will automatically download and install updates as the PC boots if you prefer. The advantage of this is that you will always have the latest version of every program on your PC, with the latest security patches, bug fixes and features.

My own preference is for the third option, which notifies you only. I have out of date software on my computer for various reasons. For example, older versions of browsers are useful for compatibility testing with websites. Sometimes older versions of programs are simpler and more lightweight, with just the features I need. Old programs need less powerful hardware too.

Having the choice whether to update programs and the ability to choose which ones are updated suits me, but you may prefer the fully automatic option. You can install Secunia and forget about updates, letting the program to its work automatically.

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