software updates for security

Why are software updates so important for cybersecurity?

Software updates. You don’t have to be an IT expert to be familiar with the concept. How many times have you sat down to work only to be greeted by a persistent notification that politely demands you update this or patch that?

And if you’re like a lot of business leaders, you push those notifications to the side and get back to work. You don’t have time to sit and wait while Windows updates again.

But the fact is, failure to apply updates regularly will slow your business down. You’ll lose profits in the form of productivity, and even worse, your cybersecurity will suffer. In this article, we’re going to share why updates really do matter and how you should go about ensuring your system is always up-to-date.

3 basic reasons why you should stop stalling and update your software

Let’s begin with three non-security-related reasons why you should apply software updates as they’re available. We won’t spend too long on these, but they’re worth noting.

1. Improved performance

Updates often address performance flaws and small coding errors in software. Up-to-date software is more likely to run smoothly and efficiently, whereas out-of-date software my lag or even misfire.

2. New functionality

It’s not uncommon for software makers to include additional functionality in updates, making the base product even better over time. When you don’t apply updates, you cheat yourself out of that additional functionality.

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3. Smooth integrations

Finally, with so much of your business relying on integrated tools and cloud services, updates are critical to maintaining communication and data exchange between technology tools. If you don’t update one solution, it could easily interfere with others.

And 1 BIG reason to apply updates: Cybersecurity

While the above reasons are compelling in and of themselves, the most critical reason for applying updates is all about your network security.

Out-of-date software can make you an easy target for cybercriminals, leaving hidden gaps and putting your data and your company’s stability at stake.

What if you don’t update?

The easiest way to understand the scope of the danger is with an actual example.

Most likely, you remember the WannaCry ransomware attack that made global headlines back in 2017. If not, here’s a quick recap.

WannaCry took advantage of a vulnerability in the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. Like so many other ransomware attacks, if successful, it locked the user out of their own files. As one CNET summarized, WannaCry “brought computer systems from Russia to China to the UK and the US to their knees, locking people out of their data and demanding they pay a ransom or lose everything.”

The estimated damages are well into the billions.

And here’s the kicker. A month before the attack went live, Microsoft released an update that, when applied, completely protected those systems from the attack. The only computers that remained vulnerable were computers that had not yet been updated.

A single missed update can leave you open to a crippling cyberattack. That’s how high the stakes are. And that’s why it’s absolutely worth your time to ensure your systems are up-to-date.

Related: Your guide to maintaining a secure network

How to manage updates?

Of course, all of this begs a simple question. What’s the best way to ensure updates are applied in a timely fashion? You have two options.

1. Manage it on your own

Updates don’t generally require a great deal of technical expertise, so this is something you could do on your own if you’re so inclined. The trick lies in making sure everything is up-to-date on a regular basis.

If you decide to go DIY for your updates, you can’t let yourself slack off. You need to be militant about this. Verify that every device is updated regularly. If that sounds like a significant job, that’s because it is.

And that brings us to your second option.

2. Partner with an IT support expert

If you already work with a managed IT services provider (MSP), you may already have someone waiting in the wings to help with your updates. Just reach out to your MSP and make sure they’re taking care of updates for you. (If they aren’t, it’s time to find a new MSP.)

And if you haven’t partnered with an MSP for your IT support yet, this might be the perfect opportunity to do that.

Whether you choose to manage updates and patches on your own or with the help of an IT pro, make sure your machines are always using the most current versions of your software. Everything will run smoother and your cybersecurity will be stronger.