An Easy Way To Hunt For Software Bugs

By Deborah Gage  |  Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 04:02 AM

Here's a handy, free tool to expose some of the insecure software applications on your PC, so you can root them out--Software Inspector, from the Danish vendor Secunia, which you can download here.

I ran across this tool while reading blogs, trying to figure out which software I should patch on my PC. I work at home, 50 miles from my office's mother ship, and find that once I get beyond Microsoft's Patch Tuesday and Mozilla's automatic updates, it's a jungle out there.

Software Inspector tracks 25 popular applications that even IT pros tend to forget they have installed, says Thomas Kristensen, Secunia's chief technology officer. Most vendors, like Sun Microsystems and Adobe, don't clean up old, insecure versions of all their software, nor do they always tell you when patches and new versions are available.

The Software Inspector is especially helpful here, because it shows where on your hard drive these problem applications are located so you can hunt them down and, if necessary, remove them. I had three insecure versions of Adobe's Macromedia Flash, for instance, one of which could be patched only through Internet Explorer.

Sometimes Software Inspector is so vigilant it gets ahead of the vendors. In January, it showed that Apple was passing off an insecure version of QuickTime for Windows as fixed. Users would download it from Apple, and Software Inspector would tell them they still had a problem. To get the real fixed version, I and others had to go to a different Apple site and use a different process, which Secunia says was undocumented. I did figure it out, although I can't tell you now how I did it. By the time I did, however, Apple's automatic update had kicked in and was giving me the right information on where to get QuickTime.

Secunia does not recommend the free Software Inspector for corporate environments, which Kristensen says are too complex to allow individual employees to patch their own software. But for the rest of us, it's a boon.