Why Software Patches Are Important

Why Software Patches Are Important

If you’ve used modern computers and software for any amount of time, you probably know about patches.  However, you might not know what they do, what they’re for, or why your computer asks you to install them every so often.  If that’s the case, read on, because it’s important for everyone to understand just how critical patches are to your computer and network security.

What Makes A Patch

Creating software is a complex, messy process.  Teams of programmers need to work together to create a single set of code that can do dozens, hundreds, and even more tasks all at once, and it usually needs to talk to other programs so that they can work together and make things look and feel easy for the end user.  It takes a lot of time, effort, and failed attempts to get everything working right.

That’s why it should be no surprise that any complicated program will suffer from bugs and vulnerabilities.  Bugs keep the program from working the way it should, and vulnerabilities let unauthorized people get into the program and start stealing information or changing things.  Fortunately, the developers who created the software can continue to support it by releasing patches, changes to the code that remove these bugs and vulnerabilities.

When And Why Patches Come Out

Cybersecurity is important for everyone, which is why the National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center spends its time trying to poke holes in major operating systems like Windows and iOS.  When the FFRDC locates a problem, they report it to the developer.  The developer can then fix the problem and create a patch, although when and how they release patches depends on the company.  Microsoft publishes new patches for Windows on the second Tuesday of every month, while Apple patches iOS more randomly and base its frequency on how serious the threat is.

What To Watch For

Patching isn’t perfect any more than the original software was perfect.  Occasionally a patch will make things worse, such as by creating new vulnerabilities or by turning the software into a system hog that eats up your computer’s resources.  Still, patches are usually good and fix memory corruption flaws.  Hackers can use these flaws to access a system remotely and do things like add or delete programs, steal information, create new users, and upload viruses.  That’s why it’s important for the FFRDC to look for these flaws and help companies remove them so that bad-acting hackers can’t find them first.

If you have an I.T. staff, they’ll know about patches already and will do what they can to keep your computer systems updated.  However, if you’re a small or medium-sized business with no computer specialists, it’s up to you to download new patches and make sure your computers and mobile devices are up to date.  Without them, your company could be vulnerable to outside attackers who know how to exploit loopholes in the operating system.  So always keep up with patches on your corporate computers, and make sure the OS is currently supported by its developer.

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