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Why are Software Updates Important?


The WannaCry ransomware attack caused devastation in the digital world back in 2017. It ended up infecting over 10000 organizations, including the NHS. The NHS lost over £20 million in lost admissions and appointments within a single week. Additionally, it had to spend another £72 million to update its old system and network to protect itself from future attacks. Then, there was the Equifax breach that ended up costing the company $425 million. While massive in scale, both these attacks had another common thread; they occurred due to lax security measures and improper cyber hygiene, including failure to update software regularly. 

We all have witnessed that irritating popup window,  “There is a new update.” We either postpone our response or ignore it completely. The software updates seem insignificant and sometimes inconvenient when your workday schedule is full.

Studies have shown that 60% of data breach victims were attacked because of a known vulnerability that could've been patched with a software update. With each breach costing Canadian organizations $4.74 million, one can gauge the true impact of software updates. 

What are software updates, and why are they important? 

Why do we even get software updates? After all, the software you are using is working just fine. While "working just fine" may be ok other physical products, a software program works differently. 

When a software program is first released, no developer can guarantee that it is bug-free. Even with the most stringent QA policies, some bugs remain in the operational version. Additionally, most developers continue working on the software to build new features, rectify past errors and make it more responsive. With new cyber threats emerging every day, developers have to work round the clock to fix all cybersecurity gaps. These fixes--known as software updates or software patches--are vital to the software's health. 

There are four primary functions that an update performs. 

  • Fix existing bugs in the software

  • Add or enhance existing features of the software

  • Maintain compatibility and compliance

  • Plug cybersecurity gaps in the software

Fix existing bugs in the software

As mentioned above, most software programs are not bug-free at the time of their release. Various customers use the same software in different ways on many devices, OSs, platforms and browsers. It is nearly impossible to ensure that the software functions perfectly with each possible configuration. It is usually after the software’s release that developers discover more bugs. When the developers detect a bug, they create an update that fixes it. 

Not updating the software can lead to its glitchy performance and increased downtime. Moreover, bugs hinder the stable functioning of the software. 

Add or enhance existing features of the software

Apart from fixing bugs, software updates improve the software's basic functionality by improving its existing features. Some updates also add brand new features to the software. 

When we purchase software, we are looking to get the most out of it. Updating the software to enjoy its new features is important in gaining that exceptional value. 

Moreover, regularly updating software ensures that it remains compatible with its operating environment, which is also updated continually. 

Maintain compatibility and compliance

Hackers and their technology evolve rapidly, posing new cyber threats every day. All software must meet regulatory compliance needs or risk heavy penalties by maintaining a robust level of security. So, every time the compliance policies are updated, the software needs to be updated, too. 

Most software applications work in conjunction with other programs. So, what happens when one or more of these programs change with new updates? The software in question might not be fully compatible with the other updated software. Software compatibility is another instance where software updates are necessary. Software updates help eliminate compatibility issues with other software. 

Fix cybersecurity gaps

Gaps in cybersecurity constitute the most severe risk, demanding regular software updates. The Equifax and NHS fiascos show how poor updating practices can cause monumental losses. When a new vulnerability is identified, developers release a software update to fix it. By not updating your software, you are leaving yourself exposed to cybercrimes. 

Remote work conditions increase cybersecurity risks considerably. In addition to personal information, sensitive company data is also at risk of being hacked. 

Simply put, as annoying as software updates might be, they are essential to the digital wellbeing of your devices. After all, these updates are not just popup windows but crucial processes that ensure cybersecurity and digital safety. For more about software updates and patch management check out this blog.