Patch management is a fact of life for both the home user and the corporate business. Why are patches needed, and what benefits do they bring?
Simply put they keep software up to date with bug corrections and software enhancements, and as such are vital to your digital safety and online security. So when the pop-up window appears telling you that software updates are available, implement them as soon as it is convenient.
There is a slight difference between updates and patches. Patches are intended as a possibly temporary measure to correct or provide a get-around for a known problem for which the full solution is not yet available. Updates are formal releases of new software. If your current version is Version 2.0, a full update will be to Version 2.5 or 3.0, while a patch level update might take you to Version 2.0.1. Usually, patches are free, but upgrades are sometimes charged for.
Don’t ignore patches, they may fix that niggling problem that’s been upsetting you.
One point to watch out for. On Windows systems particularly, you are sometimes invited to download and install a software application that will check your system for outdated software and make the necessary updates. Generally, you should not do this. The Windows update process will do that automatically for you.
Here are five reasons why regular software patching is important:
Keeping software up to date
The software world is a rapidly changing one. New security threats appear regularly, users might uncover software faults, you might be needing new application systems features.
Systems and applications software updates provide protection by repairing security flaws and fixing bugs. They can also bring new application features and remove outdated ones.
One important area is that of anti-malware software. Regularly updating virus signature files and detection algorithms is essential for your online security by keeping protection up to date. New viruses and delivery vectors are continually appearing. Regular updates are necessary to provide up to date protection.
Patching Security Flaws
Hackers are continually looking for the holes in security systems, often called vulnerabilities, that exist in both applications and systems software. They write code to exploit the vulnerability, package it in a piece of malware and use known techniques to deliver it to you. Phishing and counterfeit sites are common techniques.
Because software developers have input from many users, they know of the vulnerabilities and can distribute fixes using updates and patches.
At the risk of repetition, regularly updating anti-malware virus signature files and detection algorithms is essential for your online security by keeping protection up to date.
Protection of data and intellectual property is essential nowadays. It’s not just business data, most users keep treasured memories, pictures, and videos, on their computers. A further area needing protection is financial information. As online shopping becomes more common, most users keep bank account and credit card details online and on their devices. If a hacker can steal your financial information, they can steal your money.
The ultimate threat is ransomware and ID Theft, though this is more likely in a corporate environment.
Again regularly applying software patches helps to keep defences against hackers up to date.
As with a bacterial or virus infection, it is easy to pass a computer virus on to someone else. If you use a domestic or business network, that can be a calamity. Even using a flash drive or DVD to share information can potentially pass a virus on.
Similarly, you can catch a virus from a friend, family member or colleague. Keeping your anti-malware software up to date, and making sure it protects you by scanning input devices like a flash drive or DVD for malware can prevent you from catching one and passing it on.
Most people are very lax when it comes to making sure that their software is up to date with all current patches. Fortunately many provide an automated option to schedule checks for software patch download and installation when your device is not in use.
All major malware applications do, as do most operating systems. Windows, for example, has regular update checks that can include other Microsoft and third-party software products.
The benefits of regularly updating systems and applications, particularly anti-malware, software cannot be overstressed.