System Updates and Cyber Security

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No doubt: you are aware of the little pop-up windows or notifications on your computer screen. They tell you software updates are available for your computer, laptop, tablet, or other mobile devices. You might be tempted to click on the “Remind me later” button or even click on the “X” and close out the notification, especially if you are in the middle of something important. You aren’t alone! However, it is in your best interest not to put off updating your software. Once you are in a place where you can save your work and let your device perform the updates, go for it. 

Even though their frequency may come across as annoying, software updates are important to your digital safety and cyber security. Perform the update and you can feel confident your device is more secure — at least until the next update becomes available. 

Why are software updates so important? Here are a few reasons to help show why it’s important to regularly update software. 

1. Software updates are multitaskers 

Software updates offer plenty of benefits. It’s all about revisions. Some of these updates may include updating security issues that have been discovered, fixing or removing computer bugs from previous updates and helping with system performance. Updates contribute to your system’s overall health by adding new features and even removing outdated ones. 

2. Updates help correct security flaws 

In our digital world, hackers have taken advantage of previous updates by exploiting security flaws, also known as software vulnerabilities. According to Wikipedia a software vulnerability is a weakness which can be exploited by a threat actor, such as an attacker, to cross privilege boundaries within a computer system. Hackers can take advantage of the weaknesses in past updates by discovering holes in the system’s security. Once a vulnerability has been discovered, a hacker can write a code or program to target the vulnerability.  

The code or program is packaged into malware — short for malicious software, this is what is known as an “exploit” which has the potential to infect a computer. Sometimes these exploits have have been known to mimic compromised messages, rogue websites or even infect media files such as audio and video files.  

What can malware do to a computer system? Malware has been known to steal data saved on a computer system or granting access to system files and even allowing an attacker to encrypt personal files.  

Software and system updates, specifically security updates typically include patches to correct security holes in a system. 

3. Software updates help protect your data 

Chances are you use your device to store personal files and you may take advantage of online shopping and banking. Your personal information, known as a Digital Identity (online shopping, banking and even from email accounts) is valuable to cyber criminals. According to Lifelock a Digital Identity “consists of various pieces of information about you—in digital form—that, when put together, point to you. Such pieces of information are often called “data attributes.” They can be something obvious, such as a username or Social Security number, or something less apparent, such as your online comments or search activities.” 

This information can be used by an attacker to commit crimes in your name, or an attacker may even sell your data on the “dark web”, enabling others to commit crimes. Some forms of malware are known as ransomware. Ransomware is an attack where malware encrypts your data files until you pay the attacker to release them – it is important to note that paying an attacker during a ransomware attack does NOT guarantee the release of your data files.  

Keeping your device up to date helps prevent such attacks from occurring. 

 4. Be a team player 

Keeping your device up to date helps protect your device from outside attacks, but did you know that it also helps defend others as well? Think of it this way, by keeping your device up to date you are helping to stop the spread of harmful software (like a virus or malware) from infecting your friends, family and even coworkers.  

Using trusted software, such as Microsoft Defender helps secure your device and helps protect those you interact with online. 

5. Stay cutting edge 

With all this talk of updates patching security holes, we can’t forget that updates also help improve your system by adding new features, improving older ones – and even removing features that are no longer needed.  

These updates help keep your system running and keep your device on the cutting edge by offering stability to programs that may have been slow to open or even crash from time to time. An update may speed up your system by optimizing performance. 

6. Ultimately, its up to you 

Remember, you always have the choice to ignore the updates – however you may end up missing out on functions that your associates may take advantage of. Not to mention that by doing so, you leave the door open for potential outside attacks.  

By: Mike Lane 

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