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.

Nothing to See Here: Starcraft 2 is NOT killing graphics cards.

With the launch of Starcraft 2 on July 27th, 2010 people were excited to get their hands on this long awaited game.  Development of the game started in 2003 and had been delayed or postponed several times due to other games Blizzard was producing at the time.

Since the launch minor issues have been growing, and today Blizzard Confirms an overheating issue. However, this story has been spun by the technology community even to the point where Slashdot picked up on it.  It has been given menacing sounding titles such as “Is Starcraft II bad for your graphics card?” by ZDnet and “Is Starcraft II Killing Graphics Cards” by Slashdot. A much more appropriate title to the actual problem is one given by OverClockersClub “Starcraft 2 causing some GPU’s to Overheat

The problem is that during some of the in-between mission screens, cut screens and menu screens are not frame capped like the actual game play is.  This causes the GPU to render these screens as fast as possible.  Since these screens are simple and, for the most part, static, the computer has an easy time and is able to render these very quickly causing the GPU to heat up.  This increased heat and power consumption exposes flaws in Starcraft II players’ computers, causing crashes, reboots, and even some claimed GPU failures. Continue reading Nothing to See Here: Starcraft 2 is NOT killing graphics cards.