People are patching Windows but not their apps

Users are far more lax about updating and fixing apps they run on their PCs than updating Windows

People are patching Windows but not their apps
Credit: Thinkstock

The good news? People are keeping Windows up to date and patched. The bad news? They are a lot sloppier about the apps they use on their Windows PCs.

According to a new report from Secunia Research in its Country Reports, covering Q2 2016 for 12 countries, the number of unpatched Windows machines has declined to just 5.4 percent, which is a sizable drop from the 6.1 percent of the first quarter. In Q2 of 2015, that figure was 10.3 percent.

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However, users are a lot more lackadaisical about non-Microsoft programs. The number of unpatched non-Microsoft programs rose to 12.6 percent of users with unpatched programs in Q2, up from 11.9 percent in Q1 this year, and up from 11.3 percent in Q2 2015.

Secunia, which was acquired by Flexera Software last September, has a utility called the Personal Software Inspector, which checks all the apps and the OS on your PC and informs you which are out of date and need updating. You can have the software perform the updates automatically or just be informed of an available update.

In its U.S. findings, Secunia said the average American PC has 74 programs for 26 different vendors. Thirty-one of the 74 programs are Microsoft, while 43 are not. About 5.5 percent of American PCs have an out-of-date OS, but 13.5 percent had out-of-date apps and another 6.8 percent had end-of-life apps, meaning the app was no longer supported.

Top 10 unpatched apps 

The top 10 list of unpatched apps is a real mishmash of oddballs, and yes, Adobe is all over this list. The app with the highest rate of exposure, though, is PuTTY, a free SSH and Telnet client for Windows, with 68 percent of clients surveyed running an out-of-date version.

PuTTY is followed by:

  • Adobe Reader XI (65 percent)
  • VLC Media Player 2.x (60 percent)
  • Google Picasa (52 percent)
  • Oracle Java JRE 1.8.x/8.x (49 percent)
  • Adobe Shockwave Player 12.x (41 percent)
  • Mozilla Firefox 45.x (38 percent)
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 2.x (37 percent)
  • Apple iTunes 12.x (31 percent)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader DC 15.x (12 percent)

I can tell you from experience the difference between most of these and other apps: they don't alert you of a new version. CCLeaner always pops up a window telling of a new version, for example, as did ESET NOD32 antivirus and Wise Care 365. As a Firefox user, I have to manually check for updates.

Java, though, does pop up a window informing you of new versions, so the onus is on users for not accepting it. Ditto for iTunes.

And did you notice no games on the list? That's because you can't launch a game without a patch being applied. Since I get most of my games from Steam, the iTunes of online gaming, patches and updates are pushed out either in the background or when I launch the game. The same applies to every massively multiplayer online (MMO) game I've ever played. I can't launch the game without a patch being applied first. Software companies can learn a lot from the game companies.

The report can be found here (pdf).

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