Probably each of us is irritated by the increasingly frequent number of digits / dots next to the icon meaning new updates available on our device. Many people underestimate this and do not make updates, because they are satisfied with the way the application works at the moment. After all, an update could slow down our hardware?
What is a software update?
All the devices you use have been programmed to work as intended.
Software can be divided into two main categories:
- operating system, i.e. basic software and absolutely necessary for our device to work in the basic range (the example of operating system is Windows, Linux, macOS, and also – in the case of mobile devices – iOS or Android),
- user-installed applications on your device (for example, Microsoft Office or Facebook on your phone).
Both the operating system and the applications installed by us on our devices are updated from time to time. The update is based on replacing the application used by its new release, most often preserving the existing data, history, or settings.
The appearance of a new version is often associated with the identification by the application developer of various types of bugs – such as functional (in some cases, the application does not behave as it should), or those related to security. Making a new version available often results simply from the desire to improve the operation of the application or add a new function to the application.
Why are security bugs dangerous?
Very often someone (most often the creator of the application, but not always) discovers errors related to security. This type of errors can be dangerous primarily for the data that are processed by the application, such as your photos, documents, multimedia, or the history of communication with another person.
Security errors may result in a violation:
- confidentiality – someone unauthorised may have access to your data, or it will be made public to everyone on the Internet,
- integrity – the data will be replaced in order to cause you damage,
- availability – you will lose access to your data (temporarily or forever).
Is safety error just a theory?
Unfortunately, exploiting security vulnerabilities is not only a theory. Criminals are eager to exploit known vulnerabilities in software to achieve their goal of stealing money from a bank account more and more often.
An example can be sending out phishing e-mails, which contain an attachment prepared in such a way that its opening would take advantage of the security vulnerability in your computer’s software (e.g. in MS Office or Adobe Reader) to install malicious software.
What happens next? Such malware (also known as malware or computer virus) can intercept your communication with the bank and influence it freely, and try to persuade you to take various actions, which in the end will cause the flow of funds from your account.
Automatic application updates wherever possible. We will then drop the obligation to remember to check if new versions of our software are available. Most computer programs on the first run ask us if we want to enable automatic updates – it is worth using this option.
Disadvantages of the automatic update
The new version of the operating system may cause that some specific applications that we have installed will stop working for us. This does not happen often, but there is such a risk.
In order to minimize the risk of problems, new versions of the systems are tested within the so-called “beta” version by testers-volunteers who verify that everything is working properly. If the developer of the system decides that the test result is satisfactory, he decides to make a new version of the system available to everyone.
Lack of support and upgradeability
Sometimes it happens that the creator of a given software makes a decision not to develop it further. Consequently, if security gaps are found in it, we will not get the right patches for it. In such a situation, the best solution is to resign from using such an application and find another program that is functionally similar and has the active support of the creator.
Is it worth it?
Despite the risk associated with the fact that after the update, not necessarily everything will work for us:
- make sure that your devices and applications update as automatically as possible,
- verification on the manufacturer’s website whether the given software still has support, and in case of its lack, an attempt to find an alternative solution,
- a thorough analysis of whether the “new” device you decide to purchase is supported by the manufacturer (and how long it will be supported).
Remember that a new version of computer software is not only “new icons”. It’s usually a whole set of fixes designed to eliminate identified errors (including those related to security).