Internet Security 101: What’s the risks when running out of date software

Every day something happens that most people don’t notice. A new bug or security hole gets discovered. In theory when these are found by security researchers or bug hunters they get privately reported to the company that makes the device or software. The company creates a fix which is then pushed to the device. You as the customer might have to download this manually or just click on a notification that you accept the update. Several companies have been trying to make the process more automatic but as an update often includes a reboot this has caused some backlash when people’s Windows machines reboot automatically.

The upshot is that it usually needs the user to click, tap or somehow other actively approve the update. And many people don’t.

The reasons seem to vary between not noticing it, not wanting to be bothered, not wanting the system to slow down afterwards which it sometimes does or not wanting to risk anything that might change how things work or look.

So why should you care? What are the consequences of just ignoring the updates – assuming that the computer or phone will let you. There’s a range of possibilities that depend on what your adversary is after. If it’s personal it might be having your private photos, conversations and files viewed. It might be having your online identity stolen – losing control of your Facebook account for example. It might be more financially focused – having your credit card details taken or in more extreme cases having your identity completely stolen.
If the hacker is less interested in you as a person it might be taking over your device and using it as part of botnet of thousands of devices to attack someone else. In the best case this would just result in your device slowing down and potentially more data charges. In the worst case it might mean a device that’s effectively useless to you.

So please – stay patched, stay up to date and stay secure. It’s less hassle than the alternative.

 


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