Ignoring Software Updates? You’re Leaving Your System Vulnerable to Attack

Ignoring Software Updates? You’re Leaving Your System Vulnerable to Attack

With the recent release of iOS10 and macOS Sierra, we decided that it’s time to address a common problem: ignoring software updates. We may have acquiesced to Apple this time in order to get the flashy iMessage features, desktop Siri integration, and Auto Unlock that come with full upgrades. But what about the more mundane update requests we get every day? If we’re honest, most of those get ignored, put off with an annoyed glance and a “Remind Me Later” (if there’s no option to close without a reminder, that is).

It’s perfectly understandable – if you’re using the computer, you’re right in the middle of doing something. You don’t want to have to reboot your computer or program, and besides, it doesn’t seem like a big deal - everything is working fine. You’ll do it tomorrow. Okay the next day. Okay the next day...Jeez, doesn’t this thing have the option to say “Remind me next year”?? 

But updates are a crucial part of your computer’s health and security. Besides the performance and reliability improvements gained from bug fixes, software updates are essential because they shore up vulnerabilities to attack.

For desktop application software that’s entirely unconnected to the Internet, updates are not exactly life-and-death. But updates to your operating system should be done as soon as they are available, and software connected to the Internet such as email, Skype, and Java should follow suit. And don’t forget – there are desktop software products such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite (now “Creative Cloud”) that now have online options, so be sure to check that any such applications are up to date as well.

Finally, software requiring regular updates - especially antivirus - should be attended to immediately. They’re annoyingly frequent for a reason: there are new viruses discovered every day, and updated versions that have mutated to get around defenses. Those updates not just protect you from more attacks, but to protect you from the most recent and therefore most dangerous ones.

Updates are essential, because if the company providing an update knows about a vulnerability, it means someone else probably knows about it too, someone who’s just as interested in your system’s weakness but not quite as concerned with your well-being. 

Software vulnerabilities are particularly damaging because they provide more than just the opportunity to attack the application itself – they provide a means of entry to your system. It’s like having an open wound, providing easy access for viruses and other nasty software. Your computer could get infected with malware like ransomware, or it could get hijacked entirely by an attacker to get sensitive information or to be used in a botnet attack.

Have I Convinced You to Finally Update Your Software?

I sure hope so. Implementing software updates is something that isn’t as annoying as people make it out to be, and considering the risks you take by not doing so, it doesn’t make much sense to keep clicking that “Remind Me Later” button. Cybercriminals depend on these vulnerabilities, and the easiest way to protect your computer is to let updates do their job. 

So take a few minutes, and let your application or machine restart. For software that allows you to turn on automatic updates, choose that option so that holes are patched as they’re found. Grab a fresh cup of coffee, read a couple pages of a book, or go on your phone if you can’t otherwise survive the downtime. You won’t see much of a change when you’re back in, but you will have taken the most important step you can to keep your computer and your network safe.