If you’re also one of those people who clicks “remind me later” or ignores pop-ups informing you it’s time to update your software, it’s time to change that habit.
Reasons why it's important to update your systems regularly
Little by little, some cyber-attack reminds us how important it is to update the OS and other software regularly. For example, WannaCry ransomware, the largest ransomware attack to date, exploited an old vulnerability for which there was a patch. Anyone who updated the OS on time was safe from WannCry attacks.
Attackers use publicly known and often outdated software vulnerabilities to attack a wide range of target groups, including public and private sector organizations. Exploiting these vulnerabilities often requires fewer resources compared to zero-day exploits for which patches are not available.
If you update the software regularly and apply security patches, you make the job of cybercriminals more difficult.
What are software vulnerabilities?
It's not uncommon for software or the OS to have a flaw, a weak point. These shortcomings are called vulnerabilities.
Software developers, by developing and improving their products, discover vulnerabilities and make patches for those vulnerabilities. New product versions, ie. updates are the way patches are distributed to software users.
Vulnerabilities can also be detected by security companies, researchers, or users. If vulnerabilities are discovered by “good guys” the practice is to keep it a secret until a patch is made.
It is not uncommon for vulnerabilities to be discovered by hackers before software or antivirus vendors. We call such vulnerabilities zero-day vulnerabilities because the manufacturer has zero days to make the patch. A Zero-day threat is a threat that exploits such a hitherto unknown security vulnerability.
Hackers exploit vulnerabilities by writing code that targets a given vulnerability, packaged with malware. All you have to do is go to a site or open a compromised message or install infected software, and your computer or the entire system will be affected.
What do you get by updating?
Update means applying available enhancements and bug fixes to operating systems and applications such as browsers, plugins, desktop applications, and more.
In addition to resolving vulnerabilities, it brings some updates and enhancements to your computer such as new options, removal of outdated options, driver updates, bug fixes.
So, updates serve to fix or improve the software you use.
- Download updates directly from the vendor site or from the official app stores.
- Turn on automatic updating for the operating system and for all applications that have this option.
- Use some of the solutions that automatically update all your applications.
What options are available to organizations?
If your organization uses any IT resources and is connected to the Internet, the question is not whether there will be a security incident - it is a question of when it will happen. How large the incident will depend on your Patch management (PM) strategy.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Tripwire, one-third of IT professionals in Europe admitted that their organization suffered an attack as a result of an unpatched vulnerability.
Finding everything to patch can be a challenge: 59% of respondents said they can figure out which hardware and software need to be updated within hours, but it’s often manual work. 35% of respondents said that less than half of digital resources can be detected automatically.
Precisely because of these statistics, Patch Management has proven to be a critical component in a company’s IT security, regardless of its size. To minimize exposure to threats, it is recommended that you update all servers and workstations on the network properly. First of all, organizations are recommended to use some of the proven PM solutions.
Attackers can compromise your computer or network in several ways - through malware in the email attachment, by downloading malicious content, through worms that spread from system to system, through compromised sites that deliver malicious scripts to the browser, etc. What is common to all of the listed attack methods is that they exploit vulnerabilities in out-of-date operating systems, browsers, and other applications.
Every week, a new vulnerability is discovered. Searching for vulnerabilities in out-of-date systems and applications is simpler for attackers than guessing passwords, and at the same time, such an attack is harder to detect.
Therefore, the implementation of a quality Patch Management solution, at least for business users, is the most effective and simplest way to defend against these threats.
Because of all of the above, don't think that updating the OS and software is a time-consuming operation, but think about how it is a necessary measure for the security of your system. Next time, click "install now" instead of "remind me later".