07 June, 2018

Why are software updates important?

Why are software updates important?
BJ Savage
Author: BJ Savage

We have all seen the alert that “updates are available,” or “software update needed.” How often have we just clicked “cancel” because it pops up at an inconvenient time?  More often than not, you’ll probably put off downloading the latest updates for your computer until the next day, week, or even month. This could be too late.

It’s very easy to skip these updates because we dismiss them as a potential waste of time, or think they are probably not that important. This is a mistake that can open the door for security risks such as allowing attackers access to your private information and potential identity theft. Not to mention preventing viruses and improving overall functionality for your computer.

In recent times, there have been huge security breaches affecting numerous users; losing their Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses, and other personal information to attackers. Software updates are a very important defense against this because they often include critical patches to harmful security vulnerabilities. Many large security breaches could have been easily prevented by simply clicking “update now” so patches can take effect.

A patch is a set of changes to a computer program or its supporting data designed to update, fix or, or improve it. However, patches don’t always work correctly and can unintentionally introduce new problems, like breaking functionality by removing or disabling the wrong device. This is why it’s important to test our systems before and after patching.  Some claim that patching is the single most important aspect of securing enterprises, and our best measure in combating software vulnerabilities.

A software vulnerability can exist as a security weakness found in an operating system or software program. Attackers can exploit this weakness in a number of ways such as writing code to target a specific vulnerability, which could be hidden inside malware. These exploits can infect your computer with no action on your part other than innocently viewing a website, opening a compromised message, or streaming infected media. Malware on someone else’s computer, on the same network can even exploit the vulnerability to infect your machine without any action from you. Regular updates are needed to prevent these attacks.

In addition to security fixes, software updates perform many tasks and can also include driver updates, enhanced or new features, or better compatibility with different devices or applications. They can also improve software performance, eliminate known bugs, and remove outdated features taking up hard drive space. Developers are constantly adding new and improved features to ultimately make the end-user experience better and safer.  Regular updates are available for both our operating system and individual software programs, and are very important to keeping them secure and stable.  Many of the more harmful malware attacks can take advantage of software vulnerabilities in most common applications, and browsers.

Instead of ignoring, or procrastinating making software updates, it’s a good practice to make them a priority as they come up, or at least check for them regularly. Many updates can be scheduled for designated times to automatically take effect. Allowing regular updates is an essential part of protecting your personal information and keeping your computer healthy and safe.  

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