Don’t skip that software update!

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Many of us are aware of common cybersecurity barriers like two-factor authentication and strong passwords, but is one being overlooked? Those little pop-up windows that tell you software updates are available for your computer or mobile device? Don’t ignore them! Software updates are necessary to keep your devices running smoothly, and may lower security vulnerabilities.

Updates help patch security flaws
Apple, Google and Microsoft update their operating systems regularly with security patches. These patches fix known vulnerabilities, a security hole or weakness found in a software program or operating system, that hackers like to exploit. An example of this being the WannaCry ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of outdated Windows machines in 2017.

WannaCry ransomware posed particularly dangerous because it propagated through a worm. This means it spread automatically without victim participation, which is necessary with ransomware variants that spread through phishing or other social engineering methods. After infecting a Windows computer, it encrypted files on the hard drive, making them impossible for users to access, then demanded a ransom payment in bitcoin in order to decrypt them.

Even more recently in August of 2022, Apple urged users of most of its devices to update their software after discovering a vulnerability in its operating systems that “may have been actively exploited.” Apple said the vulnerabilities gave hackers the ability to take control of a device’s operating system and potentially infiltrate devices through “maliciously crafted web content.”

Software updates help protect your data
Updating your software and operating systems helps keep hackers out. Your personally identifiable information, from emails to bank account information, is valuable to cyber criminals. They can use it to commit crimes in your name or sell it on the dark web. If it’s a ransomware attack, your data could be encrypted and you might have to pay a ransom for an encryption key to get it back.

Don’t ignore those updates-are-available notifications; keep your laptop and phone up to date and make yourself a tougher target for hackers.

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