UPDATES ARE VITAL
“Software updates often fix security problems, so download updates as soon as they become available”
They can be annoying and time-consuming, especially if you are in the middle of something that can’t wait. But software updates can’t wait either. A Windows 10 or 11 update can take up to 20 minutes to install and you might be tempted to skip it. But don’t – you’ve been notified of the update for a reason. Not to be a gloom monger, but not updating your software can put your business at risk – in more ways than one.
UPDATES ARE ONGOING
“A program is never less than 90% complete, and never more than 95% complete.”
When you buy a book, a T-shirt or even a coffee, what you see is what you get. With technologies that rely on software, it’s a different story. Take Windows Operating System as a case in point. Microsoft developers will decide that Windows 11, for example, is primed for release and the OS can then be installed on existing devices or new ones that are ready-for-market. But while you are dithering about whether to upgrade from Windows 10, those same developers continue to work on the product, improving it, fixing problems, and correcting any security issues. When sufficient improvements have been made, Microsoft makes these available as updates to download and any computer using the software will receive a notification. Software updates go beyond the workplace and also encompass IoT devices in your home, smart TVs, game consoles and your AI pal, Alexa.
WHAT NEEDS UPDATING?
All software and sometimes hardware eventually need to be updated. For computers, the operating system is one of the most frequently-updated programmes. Others that are frequently-updated include web browsers, office programs, hardware drivers, and printer software. Typically, you will no longer receive software updates if the manufacturer goes out of business, if it stops supporting the product, or if your device or software has reached EOL (end-of-life). Windows 7 is an example of an EOL product for which support ended in January 2020.
WHAT DO UPDATES DO?
“When debugging, novices insert corrective code; experts remove defective code.”
While debugging is intrinsic to software updates, there’s much more to updating your devices:
- Fixing software bugs
As we said, software is never optimised when it is first released and is continually improved upon by developers. It is only when a programme is released that the majority of bugs are discovered. Software updates usually fix application problems, make your OS more efficient, and improve overall computer performance.
- Adding new features
Software updates often enhance existing application features and may add some new ones. While these are typically non-essential updates, they are worth doing as your software will remain fully compatible with what your clients, partners, and suppliers are using.
- Improving compatibility
Nowadays, a single piece of software rarely operates in isolation and interacts with other programmes on your computer. The software is also dependent on up to date firmware such as printer and graphics drivers. When drivers are updated, the software that uses these drivers also needs updating. Put simply, you need to have the latest releases of software, firmware and hardware for your computer to function at its optimal level.
- Securing your business
For most businesses, the fundamental reason for applying software updates is to prevent cyberattacks. Bad actors spend their lives looking for software vulnerabilities. When found, they become the backdoor to infect a computer or your entire network with malware, and steal or encrypt your sensitive data. You don’t want that.
Remember that if you don’t keep all your devices updated, you risk making your network vulnerable to cyberattacks, ransomware and social engineering.
NHS UPDATE DEBACLE
The WannaCry attack caused havoc in over 150 countries around the world, including in the UK. At the time that the ransomware struck in 2017, the NHS was operating with outdated IT systems. The May attack severely disrupted over 80 NHS hospitals in England costing an estimated £20 million. Following on from this, the NHS had to spend an additional £72 million on updating software and upgrading hardware. According to a report by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), this enormous expense could have been avoided had the NHS been proactive and applied regular software updates.
DON’T FORGET TO PATCH
“While it is true that all patches are updates, not all updates are patches.”
You know that updates can be used to fix software bugs, add new features and improve device compatibility. Some of these could be ignored for a while and you can still work trouble-free. But patches, a subset of updates, require immediate attention. Patches address vulnerabilities or holes in the security of software applications or operating systems. Bad actors can easily use code to exploit these holes and 60% of data breaches can be traced back to unpatched vulnerabilities. Patching is a fundamental part of cyber hygiene that minimises your attack surface and protects your IT against hackers.
UPDATES FOR SMARTPHONES
Smartphones tend to be much more secure than other internet-enabled devices. Nevertheless, you should always keep your phone updated and never download suspicious apps, even if they originate from the App Store or Google Play. A problem with smartphones is that they tend to reach EOL much more quickly than conventional computers. For example, the iPhone 5 and earlier, excluding iPhone 5s, are no longer receiving security updates. Non-supported phones, more often than not Android phones, pose security threats that put your personal information at risk. You can use this Phone Support Calculator to find out if your device is still supported or how long support for it will last. If the manufacturer no longer supplies security patches, upgrading to a new model is a wise move.
I’LL KEEP YOU UPDATED
Like anybody in business, you probably don’t have time to worry about annoyances like software updates. As annoying as they may be, updates are critical as a preventative measure against cyberattacks. I have over 20 years of experience in professional business IT, specialising in cybersecurity and risk mitigation. Let’s work together to ensure that your software and hardware is continuously updated and out of harm’s way. Contact me today for all your cybersecurity needs.