Credits : Itproportal

Credits : Itproportal

 

It has become commonplace to hear multiple news stories about major technology companies and zero-day vulnerabilities in the products or services they provide.  What often seem to resurface from customers and the press are comments questioning a technology company’s commitment to software security assurance.  Software security assurance requires a development organization to create and apply a set of methods and processes that ensure that software functions as intended and does not include vulnerabilities, malicious code, or defects that can bring harm to the end user.  Software security assurance is arguably one of the most important and least understood areas of software development.

Everyone is looking for a culprit to blame for security vulnerabilities.  We have found the enemy and it is NOT us.   Instead, it is our – the industry’s – approach to the software security process that needs to be reassessed.  We need to approach the security challenge with fresh eyes and ideas. There are preemptive measures within our reach to help diminish threats; we can and should proactively pursue them.

I believe we are at a critical juncture in our technology and business timeline.  We need to take a broader view of the forces at play and accelerate focus on security among the stakeholders involved.  We at SAFECode, a global, industry-led effort to identify and promote best practices for developing and delivering more secure and reliable software, hardware and services, have developed the following three strategies — the Software Security Assurance Triangle — that are critical to implement to reduce security vulnerabilities.

1. Secure Software Development Must be a Holistic Process

It is widely understood that the organization that develops software for applications, products, or services has the responsibility to adopt a holistic secure development process to minimize the risk of vulnerabilities in the code they create. In the 15 years since Bill Gates issued his Trustworthy Computing memo, the focus of development organizations on preventing, detecting and promptly addressing vulnerabilities in their code has drastically improved. No responsible organization with a long history of developing software would ignore or hide critical vulnerabilities in their code. If vulnerabilities remain, they are the result of legacy design decisions, the complexity inherent in feature-rich products and services, or sophisticated exploitation of highly complex software architectures. When such vulnerabilities are reported, they are addressed with security updates in a prompt and effective manner. More importantly, such vulnerabilities provide feedback that is used to update software security processes, tools, and training and reduce the likelihood that similar vulnerabilities will occur in the organization’s software in the future.

We should be very clear: the existence of vulnerabilities in software results from the complexity of modern software. Most mature development organizations have made investments to address software security that have made attackers’ task of finding exploitable vulnerabilities much harder. That said, there are commitments and actions by stakeholders other than the development organization – summarized below – that can significantly contribute to improving the overall state of software security assurance.

2. Today’s Software Developer Needs Security Knowledge 

The market can be powerful but the software security problem cannot be fully addressed if we ignore its roots. The digital economy runs on software and needs more and more developers. Every year, hundreds of thousands of software developers join the workforce without even a basic knowledge of security. The burden of educating and training developers on software security is left to the development organizations that hire them. This is an important point because developers play a critical role in software security assurance; in today’s IT landscape this role has never been more imperative.

While development organizations can and should train their employees on company-specific tools and processes, a basic understanding of software security and the sources of vulnerabilities is as fundamental as other aspects of computing such as data structures.  You cannot become a structural engineer without being trained on fire safety for structural members, but you can earn a software engineering degree without being exposed to basic concepts of software security. Colleges, universities, coding boot camps and other developer training organizations must address the security education of software developers or the software security problem will persist for decades to come.

At SAFECode we have released a number of free resources including industry-developed white papers and online training to support developers’ efforts to create more secure software. But we would also like to cooperate with the software engineering education community to help integrate basic concepts of software security into all developers’ education.

3. The Technology Consumer Must Demand Security Assurance

We should not underestimate the power of the market. Technology consumers play a key role in driving vendors to adopt a holistic secure development process. They own the budget and have the power to pressure their vendors. However, to be effective and avoid diverting vendors’ efforts into producing compliance documents rather than secure software, it is critical that technology consumers assess their vendors using international standards or industry frameworks that focus on the actual application of rigorous secure development processes.

Technology consumers also have a responsibility for protecting their own systems. They must understand and manage the risk associated with their systems and the products they acquire, and they must operate and administer their systems securely; including, for example, installing security updates on a timely basis, changing default passwords, and holding their users accountable. And if they find that the products and services they are using make any of those tasks difficult or impossible, they should provide clear feedback to their suppliers.

Triangulating On The Triangle

Over the last 15 years, development organizations have made a great deal of progress in articulating and applying approaches to building secure products and services. While stakeholders must acknowledge that security vulnerabilities will never be completely eradicated, they should also understand that they can be significantly reduced in prevalence and severity if:

  1. Development organizations adopt a holistic secure development process
  2. Software developers are taught security as part of their software engineering education.
  3. Technology consumers insist that their vendors adopt a secure development process help

SAFECode provides resources for assisting all software security stakeholders in executing such a strategy: practices for development organizations, training modules for developers and an assessment framework for technology consumers.

I invite all development organizations, educational institutions and technology buyers to join SAFECode in continuing to advance the Software Security Assurance Triangle.  I look forward to your response and encourage you to provide your input and insights.

Steve Lipner, Executive Director, SAFECode 

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Credits : Indianceo

Credits : Indianceo

 

Despite being loaded with some great features Xamarin keeps a low profile when it comes to mobile app development. The framework has got a global acceptance by the  development community. It has over 1.4 million and growing base of developers who hail from 120 countries. Let’s take into account what makes Xamarin a great cross platform app development framework.

Native User Interfaces

Built with a native user control, Xamarin apps exhibit better accessibility and performance. Across all targeted platforms, be it iOS, Android or Windows Phone, users can dig deeper and deeper into the app features and functionalities and perform the act they want. So Xamarin makes your app engaging and intuitive and increases the conversion prospect.

Native API Access

Accessing an array of native API levels on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, Xamarin allows users to make the most of the capabilities of the device — such as sensors, touch inputs, — as well as that of the operating system’s. Furthermore, Xamarin makes it easier to harness the capabilities of Beacons and Android Fragments, the third-party products or services.

Native Performance

Gaming or media-intensive apps can be built with Xamarin. The built app can leverage the hardware acceleration capabilities (GPUs, or Graphic Processing Units) built with the device to let the gaming app perform at its best

More Types, Less Typing

Xamarin speeds up development, testing and delivery. Thanks to its innate C# Type Inference. So, skipping the manual coding, particularly those associated with cumbersome strings, developers can build their mobile app. It’s no surprise that less code will also cut the probability of programming errors.

Stronger Types, Smarter Tools

The System.Collections.Generic namespace comprises of interfaces and classes that define generic collections. This empowers users to create strongly typed collections with better type safety and performance than non-generic strongly typed collections.

Language-level Async

As we go more and more into the app-dominated economy, asynchronous programming becomes a must. It helps with building responsive apps, thereby enabling users to access the app across a range of networks with varying strength. Irrespective of the language preference – Objective-C, Swift or Java – developers can make use of callbacks and manual bookkeeping to make their app responsive.

First-Class Functions

The creation of delegates and expression tree becomes easier with C# in Xamarin owing the simplicity associated with the lambda expression. This is a breakthrough achievement as in Android and Objective-C it was either unavailable or too complex to use. This helps cross platform app developers to successfully meet the requirements of the clients building a feature-rich app.

Looking for a mobile app development company that can build app with Xamarin? If yes, look no further! This article contributor Root Info Solutions has got the expertise and experience both to do justice with your requirements.

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Credits : Adtmag

Credits : Adtmag

 

A Gartner Inc. analyst, noting a low number of mobile apps being created for the enterprise, indicated that frustration with native and hybrid app development may be causing a growth in mobile Web apps to meet demand.

For the second year in a row, Gartner has issued research that reflects anemic enterprise mobile app development, despite a supposed big demand for such apps in the face of a developer shortage that led CNNMoney to declare a mobile app developer had “the best job in America.”

“More than a quarter of enterprises globally have not built, customized or virtualized any mobile apps in the last 12 months,” Gartner said in a news release publicizing the for-pay report “Survey Analysis: The Mobile App Development Trends That Will Impact Your Enterprise in 2017″.

While Gartner said that number is surprisingly low, it corresponds to findings in a similar report issued last year that found lagging enterprise spending for mobile apps.

“Demand for mobile apps in the enterprise is growing, but the urgency to scale up mobile app development doesn’t yet appear to be a priority for most organizations,” said analyst Adrian Leow at the time. “This must change, particularly given employees often have the autonomy to choose the devices, apps and even the processes to complete a task. This places an increasing amount of pressure on IT to develop a larger variety of mobile apps in shorter time frames.”

Leow expressed similar sentiment about the company’s new research, using some of the same exact words.

“Application leaders must turn around this trend of stagnating budgeted spend on mobile app development, as employees increasingly have the autonomy to choose the devices, apps and even the processes with which to complete a task,” said Leow. “This will place an increasing amount of pressure on IT to develop a larger variety of mobile apps in shorter time frames.”

Surveyed organizations that have undertaken mobile app development have on average deployed eight mobile apps to date, Gartner said, which is about the same as last year. Also, while an average of 2.6 mobile apps are currently under development, a much larger average number of 6.2 apps are planned over the next year.

However, Leow said, a large percentage of those planned apps will be mobile Web apps, and he indicated native/hybrid development frustration may be the cause of that shift.

“It’s encouraging to see significant growth in the number of mobile apps that are planned, but most of this growth is in mobile Web apps as opposed to native or hybrid mobile apps,” said Leow. “This indicates that some enterprises may be frustrated with developing mobile apps and are instead refocusing on responsive websites to address their mobile needs.”

Other highlights of the survey as detailed in the news release include:

  • 52 percent of respondents have begun investigating, exploring or piloting the use of bots, chatbots or virtual assistants in mobile app development.
  • The primary barriers to mobile initiatives are resources related — lack of funds, worker hours and skills gaps.
  • 68 percent of organizations are expecting to increase spending for mobile apps.
  • The average proportion of the overall software budget for mobile app development is only 11 percent.

“Many IT teams will have significant backlogs of application work that need completing, which increases the risk of lines of business going around IT to get what they want sooner,” said Leow. “Development teams need to rethink their priorities and span of control over mobile app development or risk further erosion of IT budgets and the perceived value of IT development.”

The report’s findings probably don’t come as a surprise to Gartner, which in 2015 predicted that market demand for mobile app development services would grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them, by the end of 2017.

Gartner has previously advised organizations interested in speeding up the release of business-to-enterprise apps to:

  1. Prioritize your app development so you don’t sacrifice app quality and positive ROI when increasing app delivery speed. The mobile development team needs to formulate a process of mobile app prioritization that involves understanding the needs of business stakeholders and defining common criteria for evaluating mobile app projects.
  2. Adopt a bimodal IT approach to create an agile API layer. This will optimize mobile integration and simplify the process of connecting mobile apps to many different types of data sources.
  3. Encourage adoption of rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools across the organization to increase the number of apps delivered, and select a small subset that corresponds to organizational needs.
  4. Adopt a mixed-sourcing approach for mobile app development, as some complex and specific app development activities may be more efficiently handled by an outsourced third party.

 

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Credits : Formtek

Credits : Formtek

 

The software development cycle is changing. The traditional cycle of software development ranged from tasks like requirements gathering, analysis, implementation, QA, build-fix-build iterations and then, finally, application deployment. From start to finish, software development typically took many months or even years. Those individual tasks aren’t going away, but the development cycle is changing.  It is shortening

Agile development, for one, has had a tremendous influence on the development cycle. The morphing of long development cycles into frequent loops of development and redeployment followed by feedback from customers, end users and other stakeholders has enabled more frequent updates and more targeted releases.

The packaging of software as apps that can access collections of microservices and as containers also means that it’s now possible to introduce updates more easily and frequently by swapping out newer versions of self-contained services.

But, above all, the cloud-first development philosophy has become a part of almost all new software is affecting how software is created.

Some of the reasons why software development is done more efficiently in the cloud include:

1. Typically software developers are already using the cloud for some part of their current process.
2. Software developers want to work with new technologies, most of which are cloud centric.
3. New software development tools, like for DevOps and Continuous Delivery, are based on cloud services.

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Credits : Bleepingcomputer

Credits : Bleepingcomputer

 

A Dutch web developer has created a rootkit that hides inside a PHP module and can be used to take over web servers via a rarely used attack vector: Apache modules.

According to a classic definition of a rootkit, this is a piece of code that works on the lowest levels of the operating system, intercepting kernel operations and injecting malicious actions.

Many of today’s rootkits work near the OS kernel and require a high-level of proficiency on the attacker’s side to get it to run without crashing the victim’s computer.

It’s this need for advanced C and C++ coding skills that drove Luke Paris, a Dutch web developer, to attempt to create a rootkit that interacts with the PHP interpreter, instead of the OS kernel.

“Learning how to use the Zend Engine (the framework the entire PHP language is built with) is a lot easier than learning how to write kernel modules, simply because the code base itself is smaller, better documented and a lot less complex,” Paris explains. “Even without good documentation or tutorials, I managed to learn the basics of writing a PHP module within a day. If I (a novice C developer) can do it, the bad guys definitely can.”

PHP rootkits have many advantages

According to Paris, using PHP modules to hide rootkits is actually a pretty clever idea. The developer details a series of advantages.

⋙ Poorly written PHP rootkits will not crash the OS, only causing segmentation faults that interrupt current server requests, allowing infections to go unnoticed for a longer time.
⋙ Very few developers check the hashes of their PHP modules, meaning it’s quite easy to trick devs into downloading a tainted PHP module or replacing PHP modules on hacked servers.
⋙ PHP rootkits only have to hook into one system process, while kernel rootkits have to hook into every single kernel call, reducing a machine’s performance.
⋙ PHP rootkits are cross-platform rootkits because PHP is a cross-platform project and PHP modules can be cross-compiled for different platforms.

Proof of concept code available on GitHub

Paris has created a proof-of-concept PHP rootkit which he open-sourced on GitHub. The test rootkit he developed hooks into the PHP server’s “hash” and “sha1″ functions. The entire rootkit is 80 lines of code, and an attacker could easily hide it in legitimate modules.

To prevent attackers from easily weaponizing his code, the developer has defanged some of its parts, making compilation harder for people with no expertise in PHP modules.

Nevertheless, his test PHP rootkit shows a possible attack vector that server administrators need to take into consideration. To prevent such attacks, Paris has a series of recommendations for server owners.

“The most simple way of detecting whether or not any of your modules are malicious would be to keep a list of the module hashes after installing PHP,” Paris says. “Once you have a list of hashes, add a cron job that tries to hash all files in the extension directory and compares them to the current hash.”

To make everyone’s job easier, Paris even published a Python script that checks the SHA1 hashes of a user’s PHP modules.

Mitigate attack by scanning Apache module file hashes

“This is an interesting research project,” Scott Arciszewski, Chief Development Officer at Paragon Initiative Enterprise, told Bleeping Computer in an email today.

“I’ve seen .htaccess-based malware used in infected systems before, a PHP module or Apache module is certainly not out of the question,” Arciszewski added.

The expert, who is also the man behind Airship, a PHP CMS designed with improved security, says the only suggestion he’d make to Paris’ mitigation script is to use SHA256 hashes instead of SHA1.

His advice comes after Google researchers have broken the SHA1 hashing function earlier this year, creating two files with the same SHA1 hash. This would allow an attacker to add the PHP rootkit and then generate an Apache module with the same hash (at least in theory for now, has not been done before).

PHP rootkit gives attackers the persistence they always wanted

On hacked servers, most incident responders would not consider looking for malicious code inside PHP modules, as this is not a common place to hide malware, usually found in the source code of public websites, .htaccess files, or other files stored in the web server’s directories.

Paris’ PHP rootkit is the persistence tool that many attackers have always wanted, allowing them to remain at the lowest server level without getting detected.

It’s because of this increased level of persistence that Arciszewski recommends taking drastic options when dealing with servers suspected of being infected with malware, as there’s always a new attack vector around the corner, unknown to most server administrators.

“If you’re trying to clean up a compromised system, after the forensic investigation is complete, we always recommend building a new, clean environment and migrating the data over from a trusted backup for reasons like this,” the expert said.

Paris is not the first to play around with the idea of hiding malicious code in Apache modules. Back in 2015, London-based developer Christian Papathanasiou created a similar rootkit that he hid inside an Apache module.

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Credits : 9to5mac

Credits : 9to5mac

 

Last night, a set of benchmarks emerged showing just how powerful Apple’s iPad Pro lineup has become, even beating the top-tier MacBook Pro in some instances. Apple continues to market the iPad Pro as a PC replacement, and with the improvements in iOS 11, it seems the device is as close to that as ever before.

Could/has the iPad Pro replace your laptop or desktop?

Apple’s iPad lineup has always been powerful, but recent improvements like the A10X processor and M10 coprocessor have given the device an extra boost in terms of power.

The problem many people have had with iPad Pro, however, is its software. Since its inception, the iPad has essentially run the same operating system as the iPhone, just scaled up for the larger screen. With more recent versions of iOS, though, Apple has started bringing more advanced features to the iPad’s version of iOS.

For instance, iOS 9 brought new multitasking features with split-view and slide-over window management. Meanwhile, iOS 11 brings a host of improvements, including system-wide drag and drop, a Files application for more advanced document management, and more. There’s also the new ProMotion 120Hz display technology, which lends itself to improved Apple Pencil support.

With the new software features and hardware power, it seems as if the iPad Pro is inching closer than ever to being a PC replacement. Something that continues to standout as a missing feature, however, is support for pro-level applications like Final Cut and Logic Pro.

For me, the iPad Pro is a crucial aspect of my workflow, acting as a second-screen for notes, handouts, and PowerPoint slides during homework and lectures. As for acting as a full PC replacement, the iPad Pro is close thanks to split-screen multitasking, but what prevents me from using it alone is the lack of a solid keyboard. While some excellent options exist from companies like Brydge and Logitech, I’ve yet to find one that can match a dedicated laptop keyboard, including Apple’s own Smart Keyboard.

Currently, I use the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but the new 10.5-inch model is certainly calling my name, much like it did for Ben. Given how heavily I use Apple Pencil for notes and annotations, the new ProMotion display technology seems like it would be a noticeable improvement for me.

We asked earlier this month if iOS 11 makes the iPad a more convincing laptop replacement, but now that we’ve seen just how powerful the new iPad Pro models are, especially when paired with the ProMotion display technology, things are a bit different.

What are your thoughts? Could/has the iPad Pro replace your PC? Let us know in the poll below and support your vote in the comments.

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Credits : Moneymanagement

Credits : Moneymanagement

Financial advisers aren’t particularly happy with their Client Relationship Management (CRM) providers such as XPLAN, providing an opportunity for incumbent providers to lift their game as well as an opportunity for new entrants, according to new white paper released by Netwealth.

The Netwealth white paper, released this month, notes that advice practices continued to support large and dominant CRM providers to deliver front office services and client engagement with most advisers (61 per cent) using XPLAN as their CRM to manage client information, followed by Excel (16 per cent) and other (14 per cent).

It also noted the degree to which emerging companies like Midwinter and AdviserLogic were making inroads into the CRM space, together having almost 20 per cent of the market.

However, it was the relatively high level of use of Excel which prompted Netwealth to point to issues of adviser satisfaction with the major CRM providers.

“When turning our attention to another core technology, financial planning, strategy and modelling software, XPLAN again has the largest user base (62 per cent), again followed by Excel (27 per cent). Similarly, both Midwinter and AdviserLogic are gaining market share here,” the white paper said.

“Given the tight integration between CRMs and financial planning software these results do not surprise. However, it is interesting that Excel rates so highly across both technologies, given the relatively unsophisticated nature of spreadsheets and that there is no tight integration between the CRM and financial planning and modelling tools.”

“Given the reliance by advice practices on both technologies, adviser satisfaction is somewhat of a concern,” the Netwealth white paper said. “Advisers on average give their CRM a satisfaction score of 3.1 out of 5, whilst they also provide their financial planning, strategy and modelling software an average rating of 3.1. This rating presents a significant opportunity for the incumbent providers to lift their game and flags the extent of the opportunity to the aforementioned new players.”

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Credits : Inman

Credits : Inman

 

The real estate industry has an unhealthy obsession with software tools. If there’s an obstacle, we immediately try to find a software platform to fix it. If it’s new and shiny, even better.

Reading through comments on Facebook communities or by checking online forums, you’ll notice the trend. People ask, “What’s the best tool for __?” With a quick search, you’ll see questions like:

  • What’s the best lead generation software?
  • What’s the best tool for holding my agents accountable?
  • What’s the best tool to improve lead conversion rates?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re starting in the wrong direction. Software solutions don’t solve problems. They optimize processes. They improve workflows.

After reading responses to these questions, you’re led to believe you can pay X dollars per month for a real estate platform that will magically solve whatever ails you, whether it be related to lead follow-up, lead generation or another business need.

Software needs strategy

Software upgrades what you’re already doing; it doesn’t change it. Software solutions improve processes, speed up actions and organize work-related tasks. Essentially, software is an assistant. It helps. It increases. It augments. But it’s not a problem-solver.

For example, if you’re driving a ton of leads to your business, and your agents need help responding to all of them, then you might invest in a CRM platform to assist with communication.

But if you’re not holding your agents accountable or assigning system rules to respond to leads, buying a system such as BoomTown wouldn’t improve your lead follow-up. It’s a tool within a strategy.

Another example: Data shows that if you respond to leads within five minutes of registration, you have a higher chance of converting them. So, you create a new workflow for agents to do this. To help them, you decide to invest in a system that helps with communication and follow-up. This is the right mindset. You can see the tech investment started with a strategy: contacting a lead within five minutes. Then, you find a software tool to help.

It’s easy to find software to jump over obstacles, but it doesn’t address root problems. It’s why people get confused and even switch software providers when they don’t see the results they want (even though it’s working for others).

The problem is simple. Software doesn’t drive results. Strategy does.

Good strategy is the heart of solving business challenges

People love to take the easy road, the simple path — which is why so many don’t start with business strategy. Good strategy takes months of hard work and planning.

Let’s examine the problem: If you wanted to become a champion real estate agent, you might join a team to train you in best practices, start reading, practice selling houses, and test new ideas until one succeeds. Sharpening your skills and developing strategy takes time and effort.

Without a smart strategy to drive your actions and software decisions, you could be pointing your business in the wrong direction. For example, software won’t generate the success you want if you’re trying to generate more leads when you should be focusing on responding well to the leads you already have.

If you try nonetheless, you’ll blame the software provider for the mess without identifying the real cause of the problem: not having a strategy that drives tech decisions. That’s why a strategy-first approach is needed.

Don’t sink your business with tools. Invest in strategy.

Think about some of the biggest names in real estate, the teams known for their success. There’s no doubt they employ software to help facilitate their goals, but you’ll notice they always talk about the strategy they implement first.

We’ve seen it over and over again. It’s not the teams with the best tech that get results, it’s the teams with the best tech AND the best strategies.

The next time you’re setting goals, take a look at what software tools you currently use. Will they help you reach those goals? If the answer’s no, begin researching what technology will.

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Credits : Inavateonthenet

Credits : Inavateonthenet

Datapath has unveiled the Quant application-sharing software for videowall users working in collaborative business environments, along with operation centres and control rooms. Quant allow users to view and share applications, as well as interact and make changes to original source files.

Quant, which can work in stand-alone mode or in conjunction with Datapath’s WallControl 10 software, is being released following the acquisition of its original developers, MOSAIQQ Inc, earlier this year.

Quant has been designed for users to collaborate, assign and delegate tasks instantly, in real-time, without the need for the cloud. Providing interactivity with shared applications, Quant permits application windows to be dragged and dropped between peers or on to a videowall.

Quant also offers simultaneous interactivity within the same application by multiple users, as well as instant synchronisation between peers in a group, including those running videowalls.

The software, which contains patented and patent-pending technology, provides complete security as the user has full control over each application, deciding what to share, with whom, and what permissions are given. Any changes are synchronised instantly, meaning updates made by multiple users are seen as they happen.

Quant is suitable for use in business collaboration, traffic management centres, manufacturing process control centres, utility service operations and security suites.

Quant will be available to purchase as a starter pack, containing the Quant configuration server plus five workstation licences. Additional licences will be available in bundles of five, 10, 25 and 100.

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Credits : Pcadvisor

Credits : Pcadvisor

 

These days most software is either free or cheap to buy. But some Windows programs still cost £100s. Either that or you have to pay a subscription fee (such as Microsoft Office 365 or Adobe CC). But there are free equivalents to just about every paid-for program, from Word and Excel to Photoshop, antivirus and games.

Here is the best free Windows software you can download right now, but do check out the best free games as well.

Which is the best free office suite?

You might not need a whole office suite, just a word processor. In case you didn’t know, Windows has one built-in: it’s called Word Pad. It lacks many of Word’s features but may have enough for your needs.

If you must have Word, then here are a few ways to use Word for free.

Now that Microsoft has made a concerted effort to switch everyone to a subscription model for Office 365, it’s even more tempting to opt for a free alternative. Our pick is LibreOffice,which is now far from being a mere off-shoot of OpenOffice. For most people LibreOffice offers everything you need, being just about as compatible with Microsoft Office as it’s possible to get.

Best free software

If you want a suite which copies Microsoft’s ribbon interface, look at Kingsoft Office Suite Free

Also, there are plenty of free PDF editors which allow you to convert a non-editable file into a format, such as .doc or .xls so you can change it.

What’s the best free alternative to Photoshop?

Photoshop is still the benchmark for photo editors, but there are two cheaper alternatives: Lightroom 6 (£109.99 from John Lewis) and Photoshop Elements 15 (£80.99 from Ebuyer). However, there are plenty of free photo editors, including some web apps.

Some people find that Paint.net offers everything they need for offline use, while others will be more than happy with PicMonkey.

You’ll find more recommendations in our dedicated roundup of the best free photo editors.

Also, don’t forget that in the Creators Update to Windows 10, the built-in Paint app has had a massive upgrade!

Plus, if you have a phone or tablet, there are some excellent photo editing apps. Most apply edits to the whole photo, but some, such as Photoshop Mix, even support layers. Others, like Snapseed, let you apply changes just to certain areas. And they’re both free.

Best free Windows software: antivirus

Opinions will always be divided on the best free antivirus software and, as with paid-for AV software, test results will change on an almost daily basis because makers update their databases and algorithms.

Best free software - Antivirus

There are quite a few to choose between, but don’t forget Microsoft’s Defender which is included with Windows 8 and 10.

For our current top picks, see our separate Best Free Antivirus software roundup.

Best free Windows software: email

Email is one of those personal things where, as with antivirus, any recommendation is always going to be controversial. Some people swear by Mozilla Thunderbird while others think that Incredimail is the best thing since, well, email was invented.

Most people don’t use either of those, instead preferring the web app of their chosen service such as Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo, along with the default email client (or the service’s own app) on their phone.

We’ve compared the best free email services in detail separately.

Best free Windows software: backup

Backing up irreplaceable files is a chore we could all do without, but while cloud storage services let you sync files without lifting a finger, none are capacious enough (even if you’re paying) to back up your entire PC or laptop.

The good news is that there’s free backup software on offer, you just need to provide the storage. One of our favourites is Easeus ToDo Backup Free 9You’ll find more alternatives in our guide to the best backup software.

But if you have under 50GB of files, it’s well worth checking out Mega. This cloud storage service will give you 50GB for free. Find out more in our roundup of the Best cloud storage services.

Best free Windows software: video editing

Windows Movie Maker is now defunct, and most people couldn’t get on with its limited tools. Fortunately there’s a number of free alternatives, including LightWorks which you can read all about in our roundup of the best free video editors.

Again, as with photo editors, don’t overlook the video editing apps available on your phone and tablet. For iOS users, iMovie is a convenient way to edit video you’ve taken on an iPhone (or iPad) and if you’re running iOS 10 or later, you can quickly edit within the Photos app using the Memories section.

Best free Windows software: VPN

VPN services aren’t just for browsing the web anonymously. They also let you access or unblock content that’s otherwise limited to users located in particular countries. All free VPNs have their drawbacks, one of which could be unwanted advertising. Another is restricted data or download speeds.

But for some people, a free VPN is all they need and CyberGhost‘s free service is one worth checking out. Free VPNs have their limitations, and many agree that you need to pay for a service for it to be

Here are the best free VPN services we’ve tested out, and also the best paid-for VPN services.

You’re bound to know other great free software, so if you feel you have a better suggestion, or want to suggest software in other categories, let us know in the comments below.

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