Update your apps right away.

If you own a mobile device that runs software, you’re probably familiar with recurring software update notifications which you end up ignoring for weeks. You’re not alone. Let’s face it, software update prompts can come off as annoying especially when you’re in the middle of something important.

Next time you want to postpone a pending software update, remember that software updates offer improved security to help you ward off attackers looking for the slightest vulnerability to exploit.

How do software updates work and why are they important?

A software update (also known as a patch) is a set of changes to software to update, fix or improve it. Changes to the software will usually either fix bugs, fix security vulnerabilities, provide new features or improve performance and usability. Infrequently, patches may also be used to limit functionality, and remove or disable features.

Depending on the software, updates can either be installed manually or automatically – if the device is connected to the internet and has the appropriate capabilities (for instance, an Android phone that auto updates its software). Software updates are particularly important when applied to the Operating System given the reliance of other software (such as apps or drivers) on it. For example, a major release of an Operating System(OS) such as Android or iOS might render a number of apps obsolete, if all versions released after the update isn’t compatible with the previous version of the OS.

From a security standpoint, software updates have important implications. When an update includes a fix for security vulnerabilities, any device running an out-of-date version of the software is becomes vulnerable. This allows malicious actors to know what vulnerabilities exist on a given system and, consequently, puts devices running this software (version) more at risk. For example, using an outdated version of Android (such as version 4) means that all the security vulnerabilities spotted and fixed in the following versions still exist on any device that uses the older version 4.

Lack of software updates might also have a negative impact on a device’s functionalities for example by making some of its functions obsolete (e.g. A browser that does not support the latest security protocols and therefore can’t display websites properly). It might also mean that identified bugs and problems might never be fixed (e.g. Poor battery)

Software Update vs. Upgrade

Although, often used interchangeable, software update and upgrade do not mean the same thing.
An update is generally an enhancement to the current version of the software or application, while an upgrade is a whole new version of it. For example, moving from iOS 15 to iOS 16 is considered an upgrade. However, an update will be from 15.0.1 to 15.0.2.

Risks associated with ignoring software updates

1. Easy gateway for cybercriminals
One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to break into any system is through outdated software because these systems are vulnerable as they do not have the latest security updates.
How it happens: Most malware (malicious software designed to infect computers, phones, and tablets) targets older versions of software precisely to exploit vulnerabilities that have already been fixed in newer versions.

2. Loss of data caused by software failures
The main strategy for this not to happen is to keep the software updated with regular maintenance. Maintenance is a process of improving software, which makes it possible to correct errors that are found during use. Large manufacturers, such as Microsoft, offer support services that cover security updates and enhancements. But if infrastructure failures still occur, you can count on the manufacturer’s technical team.

3. Drop in productivity caused by poor software performance
Outdated software usually malfunctions, which can cause slowdowns, restarts and even programs to close by themselves. These failures make the work of employees difficult, reflecting on their performance and can even invalidate an activity. According to the complexity of the activity and information involved, these small failures can cause even loss of data and even loss of customers.

4. Incompatibility
One of the issues caused by outdated software is related to its compatibility. At the time a software is created, it is written based on the technologies, systems and hardware that are in operation at the time. Thus, one major problem with outdated software is that it doesn’t pass through the latest testing and quality assurance tests and thus, incompatibility occurs with the latest systems and technologies.

Final Thoughts
We live in an era where technology is constantly evolving. New hardware and new features appear every day. This constant evolution forces users to choose between remaining in the past or updating themselves.

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