Danish security outfit Secunia has offered the beta of its free Personal Security Inspector (PSI) 3.0 to early adopters and testers, featuring a radically streamlined interface and a new automatic updating facility.

Version 2.0 was skinned with a conventional and cluttered interface that offered the user a range of statistics on the vulnerability of their installed software after each scan.

The new look not only dispenses with all of this in favour of a simple icon view giving the state of only out-of-date software but automatically starts installing updates without user intervention.

Version 3.0 is still only in beta so a few older programs seemed to cause the software problems and it was not able in some cases (notably with Adobe programs) to install the update without manual intervention. This seems to be down to Adobe itself, which requires interaction from the user for to select or deselect some install options.

The current interface also doesn’t make obvious that if the program is running patching for a multitude of programs and plug0ins should be done automatically.  The program doesn’t yet offer any kind of reporting or logging as a confirmation of what has been updated although this is being considered for revisions.

“We’ve tried to strip it down to the core,” said Secunia’s product management director, Morten Rinder Stengaard. “We’ve introduced the simplest interface we could – users don’t want to care about updating,” he said.

"While the Secunia PSI  has as many as 4.8 million security aware users, we still have some way to go to fulfil our goal of helping all users worldwide secure their PCs through timely patching.  This is what we want to change with the PSI 3.0. “

The philosophy behind PSI is arrestingly simple – users get a free product for scanning software for out of date or vulnerable versions while Secunia itself gets information on the state of people’s PCs to help it in its core security data business.

For consumers, the security benefit is potentially huge. A significant body of malware installs by attacking known vulnerabilities, often plug-ins for programs such as Adobe Reader, Flash video and Java that are months or years out of date at the moment they are exploited.