If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about cyber security over the past few years, it’s that keeping your software updated is crucial for protecting your data and devices.
With cyber attacks on the rise, taking the time to install updates has never been more important.
In this article, we’ll discuss why staying current on software updates should be a top priority in 2023 and beyond.

Understanding the Threat of Unpatched Software

When software developers like Microsoft, Apple, and Google release updates, it’s often to patch vulnerabilities that hackers are actively exploiting.
Outdated software leaves known security flaws unaddressed that can be leveraged by cybercriminals to access systems.
By taking just a few minutes each month to update, you eliminate many entry points for would-be attackers trying to infiltrate devices.
It’s important to recognize how quickly threats evolve in today’s digital landscape.
Cybersecurity firms have found the average time between a vulnerability disclosure and exploits in the wild is just 5 days.
With malicious actors moving so rapidly to take advantage of unpatched flaws, individuals and organizations need to act swiftly to close windows of exposure.

Examples of Patched Vulnerabilities

Looking back at recent updates helps illustrate the real-world impact of unaddressed vulnerabilities. In 2021, a remote code execution bug (CVE-2021-40444) was found in Microsoft Exchange email servers.
This allowed hackers to access accounts until an update was rolled out.
Another example is CVE-2022-26134, a vulnerability discovered in early 2022 affecting the Java logging component used widely. Attackers could remotely execute code on any program with this unpatched flaw.
Here are some additional details on those vulnerabilities:

CVE-2021-40444 in Microsoft Exchange:

This remote code execution flaw in Microsoft Exchange Server was actively exploited by the China-based hacking group Hafnium beginning in January 2021.
They were able to install web shells and steal email content from compromised servers. Microsoft attempted to patch the bug quickly, but not before tens of thousands of organizations worldwide were impacted.
The breach resulted in sensitive data loss and significant remediation costs for many victims. It highlighted how crucial timely updates are, as patching may have prevented the vast majority of infiltrations from occurring.

CVE-2022-26134 in Java Logging:

Discovered by security firm Snyk, this remote code execution vulnerability received a CVSS score of 9.8 out of 10 in severity due to its widespread impact on Java applications.
Researchers found the bug existed in the popular Log4j logging library included in many projects. This exposed anything from consumer devices to cloud services running Java.
Attackers could exploit it to install cryptocurrency miners, launch DDoS attacks, and distribute other malware simply by enticing targets to visit a malicious website or click a link.
The open-source nature of Log4j meant the patch rollout was complex, but again showed why patching is so important – systems running older versions remained vulnerable even after the fix.
In both these examples, unaddressed vulnerabilities were leveraged at massive scale before patches could be broadly applied.
They illustrate that without timely updates, even critical systems from major vendors are susceptible to infiltration.
The rapid cycles of modern attacks mean individuals and organizations must be diligent about promptly installing all security fixes to close potential entry points.

The Data Doesn’t Lie

Statistics consistently show unpatched systems are disproportionately affected by cyber attacks.
One report analyzing 2022 incidents found over 82% of compromised machines were running outdated software, most over two months behind on updates.
Similarly, an investigation by Bitdefender linked unaddressed vulnerabilities to 78% of breaches. The common thread is the vast majority of infiltrations could have been prevented with timely security updates.

What Else Requires Attention?

While operating systems tend to grab headlines, a variety of other software also needs regular patching:
  • Browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Edge release frequent security fixes. Updates for plugins like Adobe Flash or Java also help remedy flaws.
  • Mobile platforms iOS and Android both push updates to users. Antivirus definition files require regular updates too.
  • Beyond computers, routers, printers, smart TVs and other internet-connected devices need firmware patches as well.

Making Updates a Habit

The only way to truly stay protected is to make software updates a routine part of using technology.
Some tips for building this important habit include designating a specific day or time each week for updates, enabling auto-update features where available, and being diligent about all the different types of software and devices requiring attention.
By taking a few minutes each month to keep applications and systems current, you’re not only strengthening your own cyber security but also helping safeguard others in your network or community who may not prioritize updates as carefully.
With cyber threats growing, proactively patching software gives peace of mind that your data and devices are as protected as can be.
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