Importance of Software Updates

September 14th · 3 min read

You’re hard at work on your computer and without warning, a message appears letting you know that one of your programs has an update available. You have other things to handle, so instead of installing the update right away, you ignore the message instead. Does this sound familiar to you?

It’s easy to skip software updates. They always seem to come at the most inopportune times, don’t they? The reality is that this opens the door for hackers and criminals to commit identity theft or infect your computer with malware.

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The most harmful malware attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in the most common applications we use, like our operating systems and browsers. By targeting programs that are most commonly used, it provides hackers with a much farther reach, and by putting off those important updates, you’re inviting hackers to steal your information.

Don’t click that “Remind me later” button. Just don’t do it. Or, at the very least, don’t put off the update for long.

Updates Patch Security Flaws

Hackers love when they find security flaws. Also known as vulnerabilities, security flaws are holes or weaknesses found in a program or operating system. Hackers write code to target these weaknesses when they design malware. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to physically download and open a bad file to infect your computer. All it takes is viewing a malicious website, opening a compromised email or social media message, or playing a video or sound clip that has been infected.

Once this happens, the malware can steal your data or give the hacker the ability to control your computer. The security patches in software updates benefit you by blocking hackers from exploiting these weaknesses and blocking malware.

Updates Alert Hackers of Opportunities

When most programs release an update or a patch, they provide a changelog. This changelog lets users and developers know what changed with the most recent update. Because this information is made available to the public, this means that hackers also have access to the information. They have a clear roadmap describing what to do to hack computers belonging to those who haven’t installed the update. Because so many of us mindlessly wait until later to install the update, it benefits hackers to create malware exploiting those specific vulnerabilities.

A Lesson From Equifax

Do you remember the Equifax data breach that occurred in May 2017? This data breach exposed the personal information of about 148 million Americans [1] and cost Equifax more than $1.4 billion, plus legal fees [2]. The kicker? The whole thing could have been avoided if Equifax had updated their software. Hackers gained access to the Equifax database through a vulnerability that had a patch available two months prior to the breach. Had they simply installed the update, the breach never would have occurred.

The Takeaway

Stop putting off software updates. They only take a few minutes and can save you from malware and identity theft. If you absolutely must put off the update (and I mean “meeting with the boss in 5 minutes” must, not “I want to keep scrolling Facebook must), make absolute certain that you’re using browser protection and that you aren’t visiting any unnecessary sites in the meantime.

What are you waiting for?

Go, make sure your browser & operating system are up to date and get that browser protection installed!

Sources https://www.forbes.com/sites/leemathews/2017/09/07/equifax-data-breach-impacts-143-million-americans/#580c5fb9356f https://www.wabe.org/equifax-says-cybersecurity-breach-has-cost-1-4-billion https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2017/09/14/equifax-hack-the-result-of-patched-vulnerability/#587f8cab5cda

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