Secunia PSI – The Security tool every windows user should be running

Lets be honest, Windows security is not the easiest thing to manage.  On top of the Microsoft products, there exist the 3rd party programs that tend to be forgotten about. Microsoft has made great progress with the security of Windows in its most recent releases of Windows 7 and Office 2010, but that’s only part of the solution. The Microsoft update website and built in Microsoft update utility in Windows Vista and Windows 7 have helped a great deal with keeping Microsoft products up to date, but these are far from all of the programs that most people run.  Persons crafting malicious code such as viruses, malware, etc know this and are targeting other programs too.  These 3rd party programs do not have a common updater and each must be updated on its own, for example, programs like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat, Java, and Firefox, just to name a few. It is a lot for the average user to do, especially considering there is no general update policy (IE, Patch Tuesday) with most vendors, and announcements about updates are quiet.

Enter Secunia PSI. This is a free (for personal use) program put out by the Secunia company. They specialize in finding exploits and providing monitoring software.  PSI (Personal Security Inspector) is a tool that scans the programs on your hard drive and then does version checks against its vast list of known exploits.  It then notifies you of older versions and tells you where you need to go to fix them. The program is great for finding those programs you rarely use and forget about when updating.

The program is smart. For Microsoft websites it knows to open them in Internet Explorer so the download tools will work. It also allows you to rescan specific programs after you update them instead of spending time to rescan your entire drive.  It also offers the ability to ignore a specific program if for instance you need the older version for a custom tool to work.  It will run in the background and notify you when new updates are available or new known exploits exist.   It also offers an advanced mode which offers more features and details.  In advanced mode PSI will tell you about products you have installed that are no longer supported by their vendors and any known exploits that exist in them.

Secunia also offers a product called OSI (Online Security Inspector) which is a great tool as well. It is similar to PSI but does not require you to install anything. However, it does require Java to run in the browser.  While not as thorough as PSI, it’s similar in operation and usage.

In conclusion, this is a great tool that is very thorough and easy enough to use that every user should have this in their tool box and run it as part of a biweekly security audit.  It really helps to inform users of out of date software that could leave their computer vulnerable. While PSI is targeted for personal use, they offer a corporate version that is a paid version. Its functionality is similar but it also offers many more features.

Update #1 (9-3-2010)

Since this article was originally posted Secunia has come out with a new version of its PSI security tool that is currently in beta. It is called Secunia PSI 2.0. You can grab a copy for free here. The big feature that this adds is the ability to install updates silently and automatically if you choose for your vulnerable software. I think this could be a great feature especially for people who don’t want to deal with always having to update their computers.

Axon Haptic Tablet Available for Pre-Order

For those that are daring enough to jump off the deep end, you can now pre-order the rumored Axon Haptic tablet (not to be confused with Axiotron’s Modbook) for a cool $750 . The capacitive-touch Hackintosh tablet boasts compatibility with Windows 7 as well as all Darwin-based OS platforms, including Mac OS, though on Axon’s website they state that Apple’s EULA specifically prohibits installation on any non-Apple hardware, though that’s certainly not going to stop anyone… after all, they call it a Hackintosh for a reason.

Some might believe the 1.6Ghz Atom N270 leaves a little to be desired, though it still has fairly decent hardware for a tablet. Specs include a 10.1″ LED backlit screen, 320GB HD, 2GB RAM, a removable battery, 3x USB ports, ethernet, card reader, VGA port, WiFi and for additional $70 you can add a Verizon 3G SIM card, and yet another $70 will get you Bluetooth GPS.

It’s up in the air at this point how well full-fledged operating systems will behave with the capacitive touchscreen, though I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction to bring more devices to the market as alternatives to the iPad that allow something more than a mobile OS. If nothing else, it might cause Apple to consider the possibility of competing with them, but then again, does anything anyone does really ever affect what Apple does?

For full tech specs and description, visit Axon Logic’s website, but see if I’m not the only one that’s bothered by the fact that they copied Apple’s top bar right off their website for their own….

Tweak Windows 7

For those of you who used Tweak UI for the earlier version of Windows, here’s an application you’ll love that allows you to tweak most aspects of Windows Vista and 7.  It’s called Ultimate Windows Tweaker, and I found it to be very useful today while setting up a couple of Win 7 machines.

The 345KB application has a small footprint, and is contained entirely in the executable so no installation is necessary.  It also only displays options that pertain to the OS version your running it on.  Just fire it up, and over 150 customizable aspects of Windows are at your finger tips, no digging through countless steps to access them.

If you’re like me, and you want Windows to operate exactly as you want, not how Microsoft thinks you want it, you owe it to your self to download a copy and give it a try.