We’re guilty of it too – Your phone tells you there’s a new version of its operating system available, and asks you if you’d like to update now or later. Of course, you press ‘Later’ – it’s inconvenient, especially if you’re in the process of using your device at the time. The same goes for Windows Updates – everyone’s familiar with that nagging little box that pops up and asks you if you’d like to update now or postpone until the computer isn’t in use. Many of us will press “Postpone,” especially if you are working or otherwise actively using your computer.
Updates can be a hassle – but it’s incredibly important that you keep your software and operating systems up to date. Here’s why you should probably not keep pressing “later”.
With more people than ever working from home, using their own devices, or in some cases working outside the relative security of an organisation’s internal network, malware and phishing scams in particular are on the rise. The time of year only means that malicious entities redouble their efforts in a bid to try and catch people out as they spend money on gifts or download software and tools for new devices. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself, your colleagues, friends and family from malware and phishing scams is by keeping your devices and software up to date.
A lot of scams and malware exploit security holes in operating systems – many of which are fixed in security patches released by the developers –for a large percentage of devices, this means Microsoft, Google or Apple. The software developers are made aware of any security holes, bugs or exploits, and release a patch to fix them – meaning that vector of attack is no longer open to any malware or attack that targets it.
The problem is that many people are still using outdated and insecure versions – perhaps, as is the case with some mobile devices and tablets, this is because the manufacturer has not made updates available, or because the device itself is too old to be upgraded to newer versions.
This isn’t to say that all older devices are completely insecure, though. Google still provides security patches for devices running Android 8 (Oreo), Apple for devices running iOS 10, and Microsoft for devices running Windows 8.1. The fact still stands though, that older devices running older software are at much higher risk than those that are fully updated to the current version.
Back in 2017, some NHS computer systems were crippled by the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack – these machines were running Windows XP, which was released in 2001. Had they been using more up-to-date systems, they may not have been subject to these issues at all. In fact, a report in 2019 found that a whopping 60% of security breaches are caused by non-updated software, where a patch was available but hadn’t been applied.
Aside from not clicking links or opening suspicious attachments from emails, (reports show that 94% of malware is delivered via email!) the best option is to make sure your devices are all up-to-date. It’s important to note that this goes for personal devices, as well as any that have access to work networks or email – especially at the moment, as many are sharing their network with devices used for work. Sometimes, updates are managed by your organisation. If this is the case, don’t panic! If you have a concern, simply raise it with your IT team.
So, if you’ve been putting off that update for a while now, our advice is to make time for it as soon as possible – it’s the biggest step you can take to help keep you safe online.