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Updating Your Software: Necessary for (Avoiding) Evil

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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When it comes to our ‘personal’ cybersecurity, the threats, and incidents -- from cybercriminals and nation-state actors -- are more prevalent than ever.

As recently as this past Sunday -- in an episode of “60 Minutes” -- we heard from five of the world’s foremost intelligence experts about some of the threats posed by China and the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) has identified Russia as a “top cyber threat”.

Of course, while it’s true that some of the percentages still continue to rise, it’s a great time to continue the conversation on how we can protect ourselves.

Thankfully, there are steps we can take to prevent a breach of our own personal information. One of the ways to do this is to keep all our device's software up to date. By now, we’re familiar (used to?) with all those annoying little pop-ups that appear at the top of our screens saying that a software update is ready to be installed. But these notifications are vital. Providers release these updates, as a way to continually fix or upgrade the systems and their elements. The “updates” help us do several things, including:

  • Improving the performance of our devices
  • Providing security updates
  • Fixing design 'bugs' and protecting us against vulnerabilities that have been identified as needing to be repaired (also known as "patches")

All updates to the software programs we use are to our benefit. If you don't install them, it limits your ability to be fully protected. There are three ways to ensure these updates are being installed.

  • Keep track of your notifications
    • Watch out for notifications from your settings app. Your device will tell you when an update is ready to be installed and that’s when you want to make sure that you follow through with the update (it rarely takes more than a few minutes).
  • Update your devices manually
    • If you see the notification, and can’t trust yourself to come back to it, then update it immediately and take the time away from your device to decompress and “take a break” away from technology. Time away from a screen is never a bad thing, and you can be content that when you come back to it, you will be better protected.
  • Turn on your automatic updates
    • If you do not want to update your devices manually, you always have the option to have your device, do it automatically. Doing this will tell your device to update to its latest version around your usage schedule so it doesn’t interrupt you, making it as painless as possible.

To keep yourself protected, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand the needs of your device. Providers will always make things easiest for you to do something, so that you won't have to think about it beyond leaving your device alone for a set amount of time.

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out these tips from CISA on keeping your devices updated along with a handy “how to” tip sheet to help fix any unwanted security risks.

Remember, too, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to use these best practices every day as a way to stay secure and better protected whenever you’re online.