Tips & Advice

Neglecting Software Updates Makes Your Device An Easy Target for Cyberattacks

Presented by Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

Using an unpatched/outdated device is like living in a house with no locks on the doors, inviting unwanted intruders. Make sure you have the latest security updates installed.

I have spent my entire adult life watching the evolution of the personal computer and its impact on daily life. The phone in my pocket right now has more storage and processing power than the desktop computer I built 20 years ago (with the intention that I'd never have to get another one).

It is amazing how universal our personal computers and mobile devices have become, but our reliance on them can lead to problems. For most of us, our home computers, tablets and smartphones contain a wealth of personal and financial information. All of which are attractive targets for criminals. That's why we see a constant barrage of attacks against our firewalls and anti-malware systems.

Luckily, the manufacturers of our devices provide a level of security support for them, as do most popular software publishers. Manufacturers like Microsoft and Apple Inc. provide updates to their respective operating systems as issues are identified, and provide them to users at no additional cost. Similarly, software publishers like Adobe and Oracle provide "patches" for their software, which has become integrated in the programming code of most websites on the Internet.

In regard to mobile devices, Apple and Google push out updates to iPhone/iPad and Android users in the form of complete system updates, while the developers of individual apps on the devices provide updates automatically.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking: it takes time and a reboot to install these updates, and I don't want to do that. A valid point, especially if you rely on your devices for business. But it's a small price to pay to keep them secure, and the cost to recover from a computer breach can be staggering.

It's easy to plan around system updates. Microsoft publishes patches on the second Tuesday of the month – "Patch Tuesday" as we call it – so you can either set your PC to automatically download and install the updates overnight, or just notify you when they're ready so you can pick a convenient time. Windows10 does it all for you anyway, so that makes it even easier.

Mac users will see available updates in the App Store on your desktop, just like on your iPhone or iPad. Similarly, Android devices display available updates on the status bar for your particular device. When my phone has an update available, I fire it up when I sit down to dinner because I don't like to answer my phone then anyway.

These patches provide protection against vulnerabilities discovered in the operating systems and software on these devices. They'll also provide you with some peace-of-mind, knowing that the bad guys have to work a little harder to get your information. Don't rely entirely on software, though; you still have to use strong passwords and keep an eye out for phishing emails.

These three things – patching, passwords and phishing awareness – will provide a good level of deterrence to the average cyber crook, and keep him out of your life.