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BigFix drops freebie patch advisory service

Long-running Fixlet service discontinued

SANS - Survey on application security programs

BigFix is to cease support for the long-running consumer version of its Fixlet Central security patch advisory service from the end of August.

The service, which dates back to the early 1990s, is one of the longest-running free IT security software services of its type. Tens of thousands of users worldwide used it to stay on top of the patch treadmill.

Although other free services exist (we particularly like Secunia's Software Inspector) as a way for users to work out if their application software is up to date, the demise of the free version of Fixlet central is still regrettable.

In a notice posted on its site, BigFix explained it ceased development of the freebie product to concentrate its development resources on enterprise products.

"We have determined that in order to achieve our goals for growth, technical excellence, and our customers' trust and satisfaction we need to discontinue ongoing development, Fixlet updates, and support for the Free Consumer Edition product starting 8-31-2007. Your existing consumer edition product will not cease working as it currently does but there will be no further development, Fixlet updates, or support for this product," it explained.

"The full line of BigFix Enterprise products are unaffected and are available for purchase direct from BigFix or from an authorised BigFix reseller," the notice adds.

Geoff Sweeney, CTO with behavioural analysis security firm Tier-3, said the closure is a sign of the changing times in the IT security world1.

"As IT security issues become even more complex, I predict the withdrawal of more free security applications of this type. It's a shame, but the bottom line is that computer users will eventually have to start paying realistic prices for their protection," he said.

Although paid-for IT security services are the norm in the business sector, Sweeney added his suspicion (which we share) that many PC users have installed the free edition of the BigFix client on their work PCs. ®

1 Outside the sphere of patching, many free anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and personal firewall apps exist. Firms commonly release cut-down versions of paid-for products to consumers as a way of keeping up their profile in the crowded information security market, as a well as a desire to make improve internet hygiene. Business models are changing in this area with partnerships becoming more commonplace (such as the one between AOL and Kaspersky, for example) but we're not convinced consumers will lose the option of using free security products anytime soon. ®

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