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Third-Party App Updates, Unite!

Unite, unite, UNITE! It's a great fight song being preached by Secunia at this week's RSA Conference. In "Secunia Pushes For Standard That Updates Consumer Apps," here on Dark Reading, Secunia's effort to unify patching was discussed with some interesting statistics from the recent Microsoft Incident Report. According to the report, 90 percent of vulnerabilities present on Windows system
Unite, unite, UNITE! It's a great fight song being preached by Secunia at this week's RSA Conference. In "Secunia Pushes For Standard That Updates Consumer Apps," here on Dark Reading, Secunia's effort to unify patching was discussed with some interesting statistics from the recent Microsoft Incident Report. According to the report, 90 percent of vulnerabilities present on Windows systems are in third-party apps.Holy hack-load of vulnerabilities, Batman! Is Microsoft the pot calling the kettle black, or is there something here that's newsworthy? I'm leaning toward the latter, having seen my fair share of student and family machines becoming owned by outdated software. A perfect example is the attacks against Adobe products during the past year. We saw Adobe Flash nailed by attackers last May, and a little more than a month ago, Acrobat was victim to a zero day that went unpatched for weeks.

Now I could be getting a little carried away here, but if Secunia could pull this off, it would be huge. But I think the major caveat to getting a unified updating tool to patch third-party apps isn't so much vendor buy-in as it is getting users to actually let the tool do the patching. Whenever I've assisted the Florida Free Culture group here on campus in its Free Your PC event, every machine I came across needed updates, whether it was Adobe Acrobat or Mozilla Firefox.

Even though some of the applications have built-in updaters, the users would ignore them and choose to install them later, which likely wouldn't happen until it was too late. Why is it that users ignore updates? I asked several students, and they said they didn't have time when the update dialog box popped up. Hilarious! If they only knew how long it took to back up their data and reinstall everything after getting infected with something really nasty...

Maybe Secunia will be able to get vendors to pull together and make a unified patching tool a reality. I sure hope so. At least their efforts will help raise awareness that update functionality in applications needs to be enhanced and super simple for users.

My question: Where does Secunia's plan fit into the enterprise? Is Secunia focused on something that will only help end users patch their machines (an effort that is futile if the user doesn't have admin rights, which is likely in a corporate network)? Or is it pushing to have vendors pull together to meet the needs of both enterprises and home environments? Let's hope it's both. This is definitely an effort to keep an eye on.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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