How to Check for Risky Outdated Browser Plugins

Outdated browser plugins pose a major security risk to your computer, so keeping them current is important. There are a couple of free online services that you can use to carry out a quick scan of your installed plugins to ensure they’re completely up-to-date: Mozilla’s Plugin Check and Qualsys’ BrowserCheck.

Mozilla Plugin Check

Plugin Check is a service from Mozilla that examines installed plugins to see if they’re current. It doesn’t require you to install or download anything — just visit the Plugin Check site and it’ll check out all of the plugins installed on the computer. It works in the most recent versions of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera, and can also check IE 7 and 8 for the most popular/insecure plugins. If any of your plugins are out-of-date, the service gives you a handy link so that you can grab the latest version.

Qualsys BrowserCheck

BrowserCheck is a new service from security firm Qualsys. It functions a little differently from Mozilla’s service, as it requires you to download and install an add-on in order to carry out its check. Unlike Plugin Check, it only works on Windows machines, but it can check browsers older than Mozilla’s service can, including IE 6 (although to be honest, if you’re running the ancient and security-hole ridden IE6, you really should be upgrading as soon as you possibly can anyway). When you scan your browser, BrowserCheck will present you with a list of installed components; anything that’s out-of-date can be updated by hitting the handy “Fix it!” button.

After you’ve finished updating your browser, you can remove the BrowserCheck add-on.

As Mozilla’s Jonathan Nightingale points out, outdated plugins pose a major security and stability risk. He cites one study which notes that roughly 80 percent of web users have a vulnerable version of Flash installed. Using a free tool like Plugin Check or BrowserCheck will take no more than a few minutes of your time and could prevent your machine from being compromised.

Are your browser plugins up-to-date?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

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