Again, a “compgeeky” post, but one Windows users would do well not to skip.
Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector) is a tool from, obviously, Secunia–a highly-respected software security organization. Free for personal use (with some very minor and inconsequential to the average user limitations), Secunia PSI inspects the software installed on a Windows computer for known security issues, recommends fixes and even conducts the user to the proper place to download patches.
For Windows users, I consider it a “must have”. It’ll save the average Windows user tons of headaches down the road… provided the user actually… uses it. It’s not dummy-proof as it does allow users to turn off warnings about applications that require patching, but it’s certainly better than relying on Windows Updates alone, which, at best, patches only Microsoft products. When it catches the need for patching.
As an example, I thoughtlessly allowed a program to install its version of the Ask Toolbar. I knew better, but just clicked through (being “in a hurry” or distracted is no excuse). Secunia PSI notified me of the insecure app and the fact that it was unpatchable, so I simply uninstalled it. (BTW: if you have the Ask Toolbar taking up space in your browser, nuke it. Just sayin’. Go to Control Panel and uninstall it. Really.)
See that yellow bar at the bottom? Yep. That’s when the Ask Toolbar was installed. Notice the “2 browsers are insecure”?
Yep. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Internet Exploder: insecure and unpatchable. ‘S’all right. I ONLY use ’em to visit Microsoft’s site, and only when a page requires IE. The broswers I do use when I’m using Windows, Opera and Firefox, pass the Secunia PSI inspection for known vulnerabilities.
BTW, you notice I’ve included multiple links to the download page for Secunia PSI, right? Take the hint.
Micro-mini-update: Although it’s not primarily a security advisor tool, the venerable Belarc Advisor also lists patches to software–and missing patches–along with its other inventory of a Windows PC. Useful. Saves its inventory as an html file that can be posted, emailed, to tech, etc. Much preferred to Windows Device Manager for hardware info.