The importance of updates

Greg Jennings
Thursday 7 April 2022

As staff begin to return to the workplace (potentially for the first time in quite a while), we would like to remind staff and students about the importance of keeping your devices up to date. This is especially true for those that may have been off the network for some time and haven’t received the most recent updates available to them. 

Why do we need to update?

As you may know, most pieces of software will require updates regularly. These updates: 

  • Release new features;
  • Fix bugs;
  • Improve performance.  

However, more importantly, they may also apply security patches and new security features.

  • Security patches matter because they fix known flaws in products that attackers can use to compromise your devices. 
  • New security features make it harder for attackers to successfully compromise devices and add another important layer of defence. 

Security risks linked to out-of-date devices

To put the importance of updates into perspective, you only need to look back to 2017 when the WannaCry Ransomware appeared worldwide. WannaCry is a type of ransomware used by cybercriminals to extort money.  

WannaCry exploited weakness in the Microsoft Windows operating system to infect endpoints and spread across a network. Many organisations worldwide were hit by WannaCry, including the NHS (National Health Service), motor manufacturer Nissan, and FedEx, to name a few.  

Find out more about the WannaCry attack online. 

Why updates need to be timely

A software patch was available during this time which would have prevented these companies, as well as many others, from falling victim. 

Unfortunately, the patch was not deployed in time and these companies suffered a catastrophic halt in operations and loss of data. 

Five years on from the WannaCry attacks, vulnerabilities are now a highly sought-after route into private systems for cybercriminals. When a new vulnerability is made public, tech companies are working against the clock to protect their customers and release a security patch before its exploited.  

Attackers who succeed in compromising your device(s) could potentially steal data, encrypt your files, prevent your device from working at all, or even plant malware which could do all the above, as well as be used to spread to other devices within your network. 

What you can do to protect yourself

Subscribe to the blog to receive vulnerability notifications from the IT Security team. If there is a piece of software that you need to update, we’ll alert you. 

Update your University devices regularly. This is especially important for University-supplied devices that: 

  • Have been idle throughout lockdown. If they do not initiate searching for updates automatically, please check for updates and apply any that are available. 
  • Haven’t been connected to the University network via the VPN throughout lockdown. 

Mobile devices, tablets, and other devices should alert you when updates are available so you can apply them at your convenience. 

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