Most modern software and applications automatically update themselves, including the operating systems that provide basic functionality. Hackers find flaws in software which allows them access to your computer. Regularly updating software and operating systems is necessary to fix these vulnerabilities and keep your internet enabled devices as secure as possible. If you are interested in seeing an up to date list of vulnerabilities in outdated software you can find it here and here.
The most important things to keep updated are:
- operating systems, for example Windows, Windows Phone, Mac OS, iOS
- virus scanners and security software
- browsers, for example Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome
- web plugins, for example Adobe Flash, Reader, Skype, Apple Quicktime, iTunes, Java, ActiveX
- some other types of applications, for example Microsoft Office
But as you can see from this 2016 list in the table below and hosted here there are vulnerabilities across almost all software platforms that can be exploited by bad actors.
Here is an example that outlines what happens if you don’t have updated Adobe Flash.
Updates for Windows
Microsoft provides regular automatic updates for Windows. Older versions of Windows are unsupported, and users of these should consider upgrading.
Automatic updates for Windows (PC)
Windows Update is free and provides the latest security and other important updates from Microsoft automatically.
Setting up Windows Update is simple. If you have automatic updates turned on, Windows Update in Control Panel will open and show your update status. If it is not yet turned on, you will be guided through the steps to do so. After that, all the latest security and performance improvements will be installed on your PC automatically.
Updates for Apple
Apple generally provides updates for the latest and immediately previous versions of their operating software, but not for older versions.
For detailed information, search the internet or the Apple website:
Often, good internet search engines will find information more efficiently than searching a specific website
Updating anti-virus software and plugins
Anti-virus software and plugins require regular updates to remain effective and secure. Manufacturers of these products provide information about how to update them on their webpages, however most applications will default to installing updates automatically.
If you want to check the update settings of these types of software, search for the settings in your system.
Be cautious using online tools or software that claim to check if your software is up-to-date. Some legitimate tools exist, but often its malware in disguise.
Here is a good article from Kaspersky on why its necessary to keep your virus software up to date.
Updating security software
Viruses, spyware and other malicious software (malware) can stop your computer working properly, delete or corrupt your files or allow others to access your computer and your personal or business information.
Your computer can be infected a number of ways including:
- clicking on bogus website links
- downloading infected apps from the internet, or
- opening infected email attachments.
In some cases you don’t even have to click on a link, the exploit may be hiding in a nefarious advertisement that just displays on a popular website. Here is an example of how that happened at Yahoo.
Anti-virus software monitors and protects computers and other devices (smartphones, tablets) from infection. Anti-virus software must be updated regularly in order to recognize recent viruses, and most software does this automatically.
When you first install anti-virus software on a device, run a 'full scan' of the system to ensure there are no pre-existing virus infections, then follow the supplier's recommendations for regular scanning.
Anti-virus solutions differ in efficacy and the range of malware types they cover. Anti-virus software should provide:
- adware and spyware coverage
- comprehensive anti-virus scanning.
Some anti-virus products may include:
- a 'site advisor – your browser alerts you when visiting a suspicious or dangerous website
- malware protection with an integrated firewall (more on Windows firewall)
Do not use multiple products to perform the same function (for example two anti-virus packages) as it will unnecessarily slow your system, and they may conflict and cause problems.
If you are installing an anti-virus product with firewall functionality, you may need to disable your operating system's inbuilt firewall. The anti-virus and operating system vendors have instructions and information on their support websites about whether this is necessary.
Before choosing an anti-virus product, consider reviews on reputable websites or in magazines, or look at test results from the website AV Test.