The Top Five Practices for Securing Your Data: Software Updates

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All software contains bugs. Some software bugs result in vulnerabilities, weaknesses that could allow attackers to gain unauthorized access to or compromise the integrity of your data. Software developers release updates to their software in order to fix bugs, and in turn, fix vulnerabilities. Installing software updates in a timely manner is the most important step you can take to secure your data.

Updating applications is typically as easy as, or easier than, installing them in the first place. Most modern operating systems allow you to set your applications to automatically update as long as you acquired them from the operating system vendor’s app store. Otherwise, many applications allow you to perform updates from within the application itself; search through an application’s menu or settings for an option to check for updates. For those applications that don’t make updating easy, you may be able to download updates, or simply the latest version of the application, from the software developer’s website. In the latter case, you would install the latest version of the application in the same manner in which you installed it initially.

All modern operating systems are capable of automatically updating themselves. Find the setting that enables this feature, and ensure it’s turned on. When an update is available, you’ll be prompted to allow the installation. Don’t delay!

Unfortunately, firmware isn’t typically as easy to update as operating systems and applications. The firmware of your laptop and your smartphone will be updated when you apply operating system updates, so you don’t have to worry about them. However, every other device that connects to your home or office network likely has firmware that will need to be updated at some point. Keep an inventory of all of these devices, and familiarize yourself with each device’s firmware update process. Once a month or so, check for updates. Some devices allow you to check for updates from their administrative interfaces. Others will require you to visit the manufacturer’s website. It is helpful to note in your inventory the current firmware versions of the devices that require you to visit the manufacturer’s website in order to check for updates. Notable devices to keep updated include your home’s wireless router and your business’ networking hardware and printers.

By keeping your software up to date, you’re reducing the number of vulnerabilities that exist on your systems, and therefore ensuring your systems are more resilient against attacks.