Tech Tip #2: Keeping your software up to date

The digital age has seen the creation of many systems that make it easier to do business, but out of date software will cause issues. Businesses that don’t implement patches and updates may end up spending more in the long run.

Your software is out of date…

Anyone who uses software of any kind has encountered prompts to update or upgrade that software. The prompt may relate to either routine patching or emergency fixes to address detected flaws – anyone with a car will be familiar with the idea of regular servicing to keep the car in good condition vs replacing a flat tyre, patching should be viewed in a similar way.

Depending on the size of the business and the exact nature of the patch, this might be a simple process, but it can also take time and money to do. For businesses with an internal IT department the update will often be managed through a process, though it is not always timely, even for security patches – according to a 2018 State of Software Security report, application security company Veracode found that 75% of flaws, remain unresolved 21 days after detection while 50% still exist after 121 days. 

Alongside the Veracode report, cybersecurity firm Avast report that more than half of all PCs active today either run outdated operating systems, or have outdated apps installed which creates risk

Example:  Following a 2017 data breach, consumer credit reporting agency  Equifax confirmed that attackers entered its system in mid-May through a web-application vulnerability that had a patch available in March. implementing the patch when it was released would have prevented the leaking of the personal data of 143 million people.

Software updates are like the best before date on food – you can chose to ignore it, but the longer you do the more risk you are at.  

As the prompt often occurs at an inconvenient time and the detail is usually vague or full of techno-jargon so it is easy to dismiss it and focus on other tasks. However IT professionals all agree that software patching is one aspect of IT management that a business should not disregard. 

Software updating is critical

Just as it is important that you service your car, software updates play important roles for your computer:

  • Protect your business against newly discovered security risks
  • Introduce new features in your software which make it easier for your staff to do their job 
  • For device related upgrades, they may improve battery depletion rate or performance speed
  • Fix bugs in the software and improve functionality
  • Improve the user interface in a way that is more user friendly

Example: A 2017 ransomware attack, known as “Petya”,” exploited the same vulnerability as an earlier attack known as “WannaCry”. Both attacks could have been avoided if computer software was kept software up to date, however the spread of Petya shows how seldom software updates were being carried out – even for major attacks.

Tips to managing your software updates:

All businesses, no matter what size, need to remain proactive and maintain a patching schedule. If your technology environment has not been updated in awhile, now is the perfect opportunity to assess what actions need to be taken. 

  1. Develop and maintain a patching schedule for your business that covers all the different types of technology devices you use: everything from servers and network devices (if you have them) down to desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets.
  2. Learn how to check for updates on your devices – notifications aren’t always obvious.
  3. Before you install any update or upgrade, back up the data on the device – while the patch will have been well tested, it only takes a small problem to become a big problem for you. 
  4. Read the information issued with the update and upgrade announcements to make sure your computer or mobile device and its operating system are compatible and won’t suffer any repercussions.
  5. Depending on your business size, consider a patch management tool for your environment. Patch management solutions should be scalable, easy to use and cover a wide variety of vendor software. 
  6.  Always seek advice from an IT professional if you are uncertain about what a software upgrade might mean for you 

Worried that your unpatched software might pose a risk on your business? Get in touch and we can talk you through how to minimise the risk

Further Reading

The Difference Between Software Updates and Upgrades – The Balance (2019)

Unpatched Vulnerabilities Exposes Businesses To Hackers – Business2Community (2019)

Over half of PC software is out-of-date – IT Pro Portal (2019)

State of Software Security – Veracode (2018)

When Microsoft stops Windows support – Mi-IT (2018)

Equifax Breach no excuse – Wired (2017)

The Petya ransomware attack shows how many people still don’t install software update – The Conversation (2017)

5 reasons why general software updates and patches are important – Norton (N.D)

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