You shouldn’t keep clicking “remind me later” upon security updates alerts constantly. We look at why it’s critical to apply security updates as soon as possible. You’ve probably have heard jokes on the internet about individuals postponing updates for ridiculously long periods. And, while nobody likes having to stop what they’re doing to install updates, they’re necessary. Let’s take a look at how putting off security fixes might put you in danger. You’ll have a better grasp of this procedure the next time an update prompt comes.
What Does Security Patches Do?
Security patches are constantly released to correct vulnerabilities in software, both in apps and operating systems. Vulnerabilities, as even the name indicates, are defects in software that people with bad intent can attack.
These vulnerabilities may appear theoretical at times, but they have real consequences. For example, if your operating system has a weakness that lets any user get administrator capabilities, anybody with physical access to your computer might steal all of your information. Alternatively, a bug in an app that leaks data might probably end up revealing your personal information.
Some problems, such as those in protocols used by everyone online must fixed by the maker or website owner. However, in many situations, the vulnerabilities are in the applications on your PC. This is why, due to the widespread use of Windows, you will receive requests to install updates frequently.
A Metaphor to Describe Security Vulnerabilities
Let’s look at an offline example about how a security patch may work, which we’ll utilise throughout this presentation.
Assume you own a home security system to keep your property and family safe. The year after you purchase and install the system, you receive a call from the provider. It discovered a vulnerability in the system: if someone claps 3 times while jumping on one leg, then system is unable to identify the intruder.
You’d happily take a company’s offer to repair this vulnerability for free, right?
This is similar to what a computer software patch accomplishes. If there is a known vulnerability that a malicious application may exploit, it is in your best interest to have it addressed as soon as possible.
Why Are Security Updates Released So Frequently?
The more complicated a system, the more probable it is to contain defects. An application with some few thousand lines of code is very simple to secure against infiltration. However, with an operating system like Windows or mac OS that has numerous moving elements, it is far more hard to predict and defend against all potential attacks.
Furthermore, the more individuals that utilise a system, the easier it is to hack. Somebody who hacks an application that only 100 people use can’t do much, but a Windows attack that impacts millions of PCs is far more dangerous.
Terminology : Hotfixes,Patches and More
Patches and security updates are usually identical words. A patch is an update that modifies previously written code.
In general, manufacturers provide updates that fix many issues at once. These fixes may also include new features that are unrelated to security.” Patch Tuesday” means the practice of Microsoft and other corporations of sending out fixes for the majority of customers on the second Tuesday of each month.
Another phrase used in this scenario is “hotfix.” It relates to a small download released to rapidly resolve a specific problem. Because they are published to address serious concerns or problems that have arisen as a result of a previous patch, they are not made available to the public immediately, as standard patches are.
Customers can instead opt to apply the fix on their “hot” systems. This can correct the issue, but it may bring other issues owing to the rushed nature of the remedy.
Understanding Zero-Day Vulnerabilities
A zero-day vulnerability poses a unique risk. This is a term used to describe attacks that are unknown until they occur. If the manufacturer finds a security hole at the same time as the attackers, the attackers can create as much damage as they want while the maker scrambles to fix it.
Returning to the home security system scenario, imagine being the first person to find that the system did not operate after you clapped 3 times and jumped on one leg. After learning this, you may rob others with no risk, making their knowledge of an exploitable defect that no one else is aware of a zero-day vulnerability.
Patches Create Vulnerabilities
As a result, it is necessary to install updates as soon as possible. Malicious developers can investigate what changes when developers release a patch to resolve an issue. This allows them to analyse other systems to see if they are unpatched and hence vulnerable to attack.
In our example, suppose the company’s patch delivered an auditory warning when it observed three claps. Consider a would-be thief who is aware of the weakness in your home security system: if he clapped and did not hear any alert, he will know your house is safe to rob. In some ways, publicising security bugs teaches people how to attack them.
This is also why companies avoid providing specific information about which problems a patch fixes. The following statement appears on several Apple help pages.
Apple giving public the correct steps to exploit a new security weakness would harm more people than it would help.
How to Keep Your Systems Fully updated
Most current operating systems, thankfully, install updates automatically even without your input from you. We’ve shown you how to use Windows Update and keep your Mac up to date. For mobile, see our guides on how to update your Android device and how to keep your iPhone up to date.
Depending on your platform, updating software is varied. Chrome and Slack, for example, install updates automatically when they become available, so users wouldn’t have to worry about it. Other applications will encourage you to manually install updates, which you have to do when you have the time.
Stay Safe by Installing Patches
We’ve discussed why security updates are so important. You now know why you should install them whenever you get the opportunity. They’re not flashy, and you don’t have to drop everything just to install them, but just being cautious about updates will prevent you from being a victim of significant problems.
Please remember that software updates aren’t the only form of update that’s necessary; firmware updates secure other devices as well.