Software updates and the role they play in cybersecurity

Software updates and the role they play in cybersecurity

We often see pop-ups on our screens telling us about “Software Updates” or “Operating System updates.” But we usually tend to click “Cancel” or “Remind Me Later” instead of “Install Updates.” 

Installation of these updates may take anywhere from five minutes to five hours, depending on the size of the update. Updates tend to do things like installing new features, applying security fixes to existing software, increasing support for hardware, and installing or maintaining compatibility for applications.

These are important for security purposes like data protection and malware prevention and allow for stability when it comes to newer software releases.

Since computer applications are written by humans, there always is a possibility that there is some problem with the program’s code. The tech world calls these “bugs.” A person who is aware of such a bug in a computer may take advantage of it to get unauthorized access to the data and files on the computer system. 

Why are software updates important?

One example of this is a bug that was present in the US credit report agency Equifax’s web application. This bug resulted in the personal data of 148 million people being leaked in 2017. A patch was available for the bug about two months before the data breach happened, but Equifax’s lagging software updates left its application vulnerable.

The Equifax breach shows that system updates play an important role in security and computers should be routinely updated. One way the average user can ensure this is to check the software vendor’s website for the latest software update and apply it as soon as possible.

Important terms related to software updates

Here are some terms you might come across related to software updates: 

  • Update- modifies, fixes, or alters current software by making smaller modifications (as compared to an upgrade).
  • Upgrade- replaces a product with a newer version by making fairly significant modifications.
  • Hotfix- an update that addresses a specific problem in software that is currently live and typically used for urgent situations (such as to fix a security issue or critical bug).
  • Patch- a temporary update that can be used to fix large or small software issues while a more permanent solution is implemented


When researching and upgrading your software, make sure the programs you choose are well-maintained and regularly updated. 

Also, keep in mind that software updates are not limited to desktop computers. You should keep your mobile devices (like phones and tablets) in mind as well. Nowadays, mobile devices are becoming more widespread and applications are becoming more mobile-specific. Thanks to an increased focus on mobile phones, there are some applications that only have a mobile version, so mobile devices are being targeted in an increasing manner.

Continue learning about cybersecurity

To continue your learning, here are important cybersecurity concepts that every beginner should know.

In upcoming articles from our Cybersecurity 101 series, we’ll explore additional threats that you will encounter as you continue to learn about the field of cybersecurity, so be sure to subscribe for updates!

Article edited by: Sorrel
Originally published on TheCyberCops by Amandeep

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