Update: Google is pulling the plug on NPAPI plugins in the browser. These plugins are already blocked by default and will be blocked completely later in 2015.
Outdated browser plugins are a popular attack vector on today's Internet. This can be largely attributed to the fact that no standard exists to keep the plugins up to date.
Some companies that develop plugins try to resolve the issue with background processes that are running 24/7 on the user's system.
That's highly problematic as it reduces the resources and sometimes the performance of the computer, especially if programs by different companies have been added to the user system.
Google lately has added an option to Chrome Stable to deactivate outdated plugins automatically. While that resolves some of the security implications, it does not resolve the underlying issue: How are users informed about plugin updates and where can they download them from?
Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, has added plugin checks to the Firefox update process to inform users of outdated plugins.
The Chrome extension Plugin Updater offers a similar solution. The extension scans installed plugins regularly and informs you whenever an outdated plugin version has been discovered.
The extension indicates outdated plugins with an icon in the Chrome address bar. You can hover the mouse over the icon to receive information about the number of outdated plugins that have been found by the Chrome extension.
A click on the icon opens a new page with detailed information:
The page displays a summary on top before the vulnerable and up-to-date plugins are listed in detail.
Information about vulnerable plugins include the installed plugin version, the implications (for instance that critical security issues have been found) and a how can I fix this link. The link redirects to the plugin developer homepage where the latest version of the plugin or software can be downloaded and installed
Non-Chrome users can open the browser plugin check page directly to see if their installed plugins are up to date or vulnerable. The core benefit of the Chrome extension is that it automates the check.
Chrome users should consider installing the Plugin Updater extension to receive notifications whenever on of their installed plugins is updated.
Update: The Chrome plugin has been removed from the official repository. Chrome users can manually check their installed plugins at the Mozilla Plugin Checker.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.