Computer Security Made Easy: The Importance of Updates


Most people think that computer security is far too complex a topic to even think about. And yet there are very simple steps each of us can do to easily help ensure the security of our devices, data, and personal identity.

In over 30 years of computer consulting, responsible for thousands of computers from a 98 year old grandmother who only use the computer to berate city officials on a daily basis, to top-secret systems hidden in underground bunkers, I can count on one hand the number of clients who keep their systems up to date.

Sure, each has their own excuse–takes too much time, updates always break something else, their software was lifted from a friends computer and the update says the software is illegal, etc.

Not meaning to be the Debbie Downer of the day, but in life, one either has results or one has excuses. And the results of not keeping both the system and applications up to date are all too often extreme. Ranging from emptying of a bank account, loss or encryption of all data, identity theft, and more.

Long gone are the days when software developers would present a yearly upgrade with shiny new features in order to encourage users to purchase it. Today, the #1 reason for software and operating system updates and upgrades is security.

Criminals (including the government) know how to get into yesterday's operating systems, and therefore harvest all data on the device (computer, phone, tablet, and now Internet of Things). They have had time to hack away at the older software to discover its weaknesses. New software has patched those vulnerabilities, so the crooks have to start the process of finding new vulnerabilities.

US-CERT and NIST (the government agencies tasked with, among other things, developing strategies for us to use to protect our systems, devices, and data), place updating software in the top things the individual and business can do to help prevent data loss and cyber attacks.

The importance of staying up to date is brought home this week by the most recent release of NSA hacking tools by The ShadowBrokers. This treasure trove of hacking tools give anyone the ability to gain access to most any system–as long as the system is not up to date! Many of the attack vectors have already been patched by the vendors. Any that have not already been patched will soon be with system and software updates.

But the patches are of no help unless each of us use them to patch our own devices.

Why are you still reading? You should be downloading your system and application updates!


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