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Industry-Standard Updater For Third-Party Apps Fails To Materialize

Secunia decides to go it alone after failing to get buy-in from other vendors to create a standard
Secunia has abandoned an effort it first launched last April to bring together security vendors to create an industry-standard automatic updater for third-party applications -- and instead has come up with software of its own.

The industry model never materialized because Secunia was unable to get other security vendors to commit to the effort. "There were a lot of good intentions," says Thomas Kristensen, CTO of Secunia. "For whatever reason, [vendors] can't or won't [participate in the initiative]," which Secunia first announced at last year's RSA Conference.

Kristensen says Secunia received positive feedback from some vendors, but none officially committed to participate. Some suggested Secunia take the first steps in developing this software to see if a universal automatic updater for third-party applications was a realistic model, he says. "So we figured rather than try to lobby them to join forces, we would spend our efforts and stick to the promise and do it ourselves," he says. Secunia announced this week that it has begun limited beta tests of a simplified patch management tool that combines its Corporate Software Inspector with Microsoft's Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), with full beta available next month.

Third-party applications on Windows increasingly have become the hot target for bad guys, with the majority of vulnerabilities on Windows machines coming from these third-party tools, according to recent data from Microsoft. Adobe, which has been one of the biggest targets during the past year, recently launched its own automatic update service for its applications.

Rick Carlson, president of Panda Security USA, says keeping third-party applications up-to-date is a "massive problem" for consumer users. "Consumers don't know the term 'patch management,' nor should they need to," Carlson says. "I think it's going to take a system built into the OS that enables third-party applications to handle these patches in a more uniform way...Keeping the software on systems up-to-date should be an automated process that takes place as part of the OS."

Secunia, meanwhile, hasn't given up its hope for an updater standard. Kristensen says the company would still like the industry to come up with a universal updater that standardizes the way all applications are installed, distributed, and updated. "But we need to have other vendors joining forces on this," he says. "So now we need to go proprietary, using the WSUS Microsoft standard...Maybe that's the way everyone should go."

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