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Windows patching abysmal, and getting worse

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Fewer than one in 50 Windows PCs are fully patched, according to stats from users of Secunia's new patching tool, which suggest surfers are becoming even more slipshod with applying patches over the last year.

The final version of Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) was released last week after 17 months in development. Since then the software has been successfully installed on more than 120,000 PCs.

Statistics from a sample of 20,000 users reveal that 98.1 per cent have one or more insecure programs installed on their Windows machines. The figures are taken from the point when punters scan their PC for the first time using Secunia PSI but before they have a chance to apply remedial patches.

Roughly a third (30.27 per cent) of users of the software scanner are running between one and five insecure programs, while a quarter (25.07 per cent) were caught out with between six to 10 packages that need patching on their systems. Almost half (45.76 per cent) had more than 11 insecure software packages on their computers.

The latest scan tool stats are even worse than figures obtained back in January, when Secunia carried out much the same number crunching exercise using figures from users of the then beta version of its scanning tool. Back at the start of the year 4.54 per cent of users were running a fully patched PC compared to two per cent now.

The percentage of surfers with between one and five insecure package on their windows boxes has increased to 30 per cent now, compared to 27.8 per cent in January (full results here).

The Danish security notification firm notes that users of its tool are a self-selecting sample that are only using it because they are concerned about patching. This, along with other reasons (explained here), means the true state of patching across the interweb more generally is probably even worse than Secunia's already grim statistics suggest.

More and more internet attacks take advantage of application vulnerabilities rather than flaws in underlying operating systems. That means that keeping patches up to date is becoming more important. Running a personal firewall and up-to-date anti-virus is no longer enough to come anywhere close to assuring a safe surfing experience.

Secunia's PSI utility - available at no charge to consumers - scans Windows systems to log applications that need patching or are out of date. Links to patches downloads and more info are provided. It's a neat utility which we, having used it for the last few months, have no hesitation in recommending. ®

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