For many, those pop ups prompting you to update, shutdown, restart your computer are annoying and always occur at the most inconvenient times. You’re about to start a presentation or shut your device down and a message comes up saying that your PC is updating and do not turn it off. And just like a watched pot, it takes forever. It can be so frustrating, that some people have gone to great lengths so these updates don’t get applied. But avoiding these updates causes more harm than you may realise.

So why are updates so important?

Software is complicated. And whilst many programs are written by extremely clever programmers and developers, small errors can occur, and these can have big consequences. Ordinarily, a program with a bug might just be a glitch or a feature that doesn’t work as you’d expect. But a side effect of a program crash or an unexpected error is that memory is now open and able to be accessed by a malicious actor.

Microsoft, Apple and Google spend a lot of their efforts protecting their devices from memory corruption, but a program that crashes can defeat all those efforts and allow the system to be taken over and breached. Many of the security updates from Microsoft and others are all designed to close these holes and prevent this memory corruption.

Unfortunately, hackers are also extremely clever and spend most of their time looking for programming flaws that allow them to take over devices. Some of these hackers inform companies of what they’ve done, provide the company with 90 days to fix the issue and then release the research.

Most times, Microsoft, Apple and Google release their patch before the 90 days and credit the original researchers for their work.

However, there are other hackers that rush to develop a working exploit before users install the fix on their devices.

But why is it important to patch so quickly? And why would anyone target me? I don’t click links or visit untrustworthy sites.

Timing is everything.

Most of the successful ransomware and hacking attempts in the last 5yrs have come from devices that were exploited after a patch was available to be installed. The most famous of these is the ‘Not Petya’ ransomware attack of a few years ago.

This attack started out as a small-scale attack against citizens of Ukraine by a state actor (Russia is the assumed attacker). The infection vector was an update to the most prominent accounting package that was used in Ukraine, a package that had total dominance of the market. The update had been compromised and was used to deliver a series of malicious programs that could take over a user’s system and wipe the drive, whilst pretending to be ransomware.

These programs used known bugs in the Windows operating system for which patches had been available for several months. The malware would be installed on one system and install itself across an entire business network.

By completing patch updates as soon as they are available, you lower your exposure to hackers and malicious attacks.

The Worldwide Issue.

Let me give you an example…

In order to do business in Ukraine, you needed to use this software package. So, businesses around the World were downloading and installing this update for weeks, not knowing what was about to happen.

The developers of the hack picked a certain date and started the self-destruct process. All over Europe, systems went dark as they wiped themselves clean. The most famous victim of this attack was the logistics company, Maersk, who’s entire Worldwide IT infrastructure was wiped clean in a period of a few minutes.

Maersk reported the direct financial loss to be over US$300 million.

In the review of the disaster, it transpired that there was huge reluctance to patch systems, very little in the way of automation and it was not deemed important enough to list it is a risk to the business.

Maersk recovered from this incident, but their patching strategy is now automated and compulsory. They have seen no further breaches.

But I don’t have the time and resources to do updates, so what are my options?

If like many others, it can be just a bit too hard and you know there will be times when you can’t get it done, it’s time you utilise the services of a Managed IT Provider to manage the process for you.

Future Computers are an IT Support company in Cairns that specialises in taking care of the day to day maintenance of IT systems for a variety of organisations. By having an engagement in place, you can remain protected and prepared. We understand that you want to focus on what you do best; running your business and our range of automated patching and cyber security services are designed to give you peace of mind.