Staying Safe Online with Updates

We’ve all been in the middle of something important and been prompted to install updates on our devices. Often, we dismiss or snooze prompts so we can carry on getting things done. There never seems to be a good time to have to install updates. Even though modern operating systems make keeping your software up to date relatively painless compared to earlier versions, it can still be a nuisance; especially if they make significant changes to your device.

Why are updates important?

While some updates include new and improved features, the most important reason to install updates is to fix security vulnerabilities. Attackers can use weaknesses in your device’s operating systems and applications to access and control your devices. It doesn’t matter if you have an iPhone or an Android, or a Windows computer, a Mac, or some version of Linux, unpatched security vulnerabilities allow attackers to take control of your device and your information. Thousands of vulnerabilities are discovered every year. The New Zealand government's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT NZ) ranks the timely patching of software as the most important action for keeping IT systems secure.

The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack is a good example of the importance of installing updates. This attack is estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. It is best remembered for crippling hospitals across England and Scotland. The disruption and data loss caused by this attack could have been avoided. Nearly two months before the attack, Microsoft released an update that patched the vulnerability that the WannaCry ransomware exploited. Simply, installing Microsoft’s update would have been enough to protect these computers.

Staying Safe

Make sure that your operating system is still supported by its publisher. Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 in January 2020 which means that security updates will no longer be available. Upgrading to Windows 10 is usually free, reasonably simple, and will keep your device protected. While Apple doesn’t provide support for older operating systems, newer versions can usually be installed on older Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

Find out about keeping Windows up to date here.

Find out about keeping your Mac up to date here.

Find out about keeping your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch up to date here.

Find out about keeping your Android up to date here.

It’s also important to keep your apps up to date. Your device’s app store should do this automatically. For apps that you have installed outside of the app store, you may need to look through the menus to find an option to check for updates. It’s especially important that common apps like your web browser and Microsoft Office are kept up to date.

IT Squad’s Cybersecurity Essentials includes device monitoring and threat protection with anti-malware software. This lets us monitor whether updates have been installed and that the threat protection software is working and up to date. Get in touch if you'd like to know more about our Cybersecurity Essentials.

Smart Devices

I sometimes joke about my fridge trying to take over the world. I don’t actually have a smart fridge, but I find the notion of my fridge of the future being able to attempt to dominate the world an intriguing prospect. While my fridge is safe for the time being, smart devices are increasingly common in homes. These devices include routers and wireless access points, printers, voice assistants, security cameras, TVs, heat pumps, lights, locks, and garage doors. Like computers, smart devices also need to be kept up to date to ensure that they are secure and can’t be exploited. Some smart devices will install updates automatically. You may need to use an app on your mobile phone or visit the manufacturer’s website for other devices though.

Conclusion

It can take a little bit of effort and patience to keep your devices up to date. However, it’s worth investing a bit of time to make sure that your devices are secure and that your information is safe.


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