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Researchers warn of growing risk from third-party applications

14 Mar 2013
security risk management

Third-party applications are putting users at a greater risk than ever before, according to researchers.

Security firm Secunia said over the past year, the number of security flaws exposed to attackers has risen to unprecedented levels with vulnerabilities in third-party apps paving the way for drive-by malware downloads.

According to the firm, some 86 percent of security vulnerabilities reported on the year existed in third-party applications outside of the core operating system. Many of the flaws could be exploited by attackers to perform malware downloads without user notification or permission.

The growth in third-party flaws leads to an increase in malware infection risk. Because outside applications are not subject to the regular update schedules implemented by major vendors, such flaws can remain unpatched for extended periods.

Secunia said that between 2007 and 2012, the ratio of third-party flaws rose from 56 percent to 86 percent.

"The fact that third-party software is issued by a multitude of vendors, with each their own security update mechanisms and varying degrees of focus on security, means that the users of personal computers and administrators of IT infrastructures have to stay updated about the security status of the different products on their computers," the company said.

"Not all vendors offer automated update services and push security updates to their users, who have to find alternative methods to ensure that their computers are properly patched to protect them from vulnerable software."

Third-party applications have long since become a favourite target for attackers as well. Kaspersky Labs recently reported that platforms such as Java and Adobe Reader and Acrobat have surpassed common platforms such as Windows as top applications targets.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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