A Simple Step in Cyber-Attack Prevention
Cybersecurity is often a complex undertaking, requiring high technical knowledge, education, and skills to fully understand. At the same time, some of its most crucial aspects are remarkably straightforward and easy to implement. Perhaps the most relevant example of this seemingly contradictory concept is software updates.
Updating your software is simple, often requiring nothing more than clicking a button or inputting a password. It’s so straightforward that it’s easy to overlook as a security measure, and many organizations do. However, these software updates play a critical role in reliable cyber-attack prevention. Here are a few ways how.
1. Address Old Vulnerabilities
Given how complicated software development can be, programs, platforms, and operating systems will almost certainly contain minor flaws. Because of this, developers continue to analyze their products after launch, listen to user feedback, and release updates. If these updates are not installed, there is nothing stopping the software from retaining its original vulnerabilities.
In December 2020 and January 2021, dozens of organizations and government agencies experienced a data breach from failing to update an outdated software program. The program, Accellion FTA, was more than 20 years old and nearing the end of its life. Had these companies kept up with updates or upgraded to newer software, they wouldn’t have fallen victim to these attacks.
2. Stay Safe From Emerging Threats
Just as software updates address old risks, new threats are emerging every day that they also must defend against. There are more than 1 billion pieces of malware on the internet today, with more appearing regularly. Software developers must frequently release new patches as they learn how to address new attack methods.
Cybercrime is a dynamic field, with criminals continually coming up with new ways to infiltrate systems. Consequently, cybersecurity must also be a continuous effort, hence the importance of software updates. If your system isn’t up-to-date, its built-in defenses may be insufficient against new attack strategies.
3. Introduce Helpful New Features
In addition to patching new and old security vulnerabilities, software updates can provide new features that further bolster security. These aren’t always directly related to safety but can indirectly minimize potential problems through quality-of-life improvements. For example, an update could boost compatibility with other programs, eliminating disruptions and outages that could leave either program vulnerable.
If your software runs more smoothly, it will be less distracting to employees. As a result, employees (especially ones who have undergone Security Awareness Training) will be more likely to spot anything out of the ordinary, improving the company’s overall cyber vigilance.
Best Practices for Updates
Even if you understand the importance of updating software, how best to approach it may not be immediately evident. The most crucial path to consider is enabling automatic overhauls. Automatically updated software will ensure you always have the latest version, even if you forget to look for or install new patches.
You should also remember to update your hardware along with your software. Unforeseen circumstances can impact the supply chain and make new hardware scarce or even unavailable. Upgrading early can help you avoid using potentially vulnerable legacy equipment while better alternatives are accessible.
Since updates often require your device to be unavailable for a short time, it may be best to update outside work hours. If you choose to go that route, set timers for your off period to remind you to check for or install updates. That way, you won’t forget to install new patches, and doing so won’t interfere with your job.
Software Updates Are a Crucial Part of Cyber-attack Prevention
Since cyberattacks can be so complex, it’s easy to forget about the more straightforward aspects of cybersecurity. While they may not seem particularly significant at first, software updates are one of the most important steps in developing robust security. Taking the few minutes necessary to update your software will keep you safe from many threats.
Software updates are just one of the many facets of keeping your company safe from cyber-attacks. To learn more about the health of your business’s cybersecurity, take our free, self-guided IT security risk assessment today, or contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.
Guest Writer: Devin Partida
Devin Partida is a data center and networks writer whose work has been featured on AT&T’s cybersecurity blog, Yahoo! and other notable publications. To read more from Devin, please visitReHack.com, where she is the Editor-in-Chief.