Understanding the purpose of security patches and updates

  • Security patches and updates are designed to fix specific vulnerabilities or weaknesses identified in software or systems.
  • Their primary purpose is to strengthen the security posture of software, devices, and systems by closing loopholes that could be exploited by attackers.

Patches and updates are effective in preventing vulnerabilities, however, the effectiveness of these measures depends on proactive implementation. Organisations must prioritise patch releases and apply updates quickly to effectively reduce risk.

–Sissy Li, BTW reporter

By addressing specific vulnerabilities and weaknesses, security patches and updates aim to enhance security and protect against potential exploits. Understanding their purpose is essential for safeguarding digital assets and mitigating the risk of cyberattacks.

Also read: Ransomware attack disrupts services at major London hospitals

What are patches and updates?

Security patch updates are typically pushed to all devices requiring updates by software developers. These updates are often delayed due to vulnerabilities or weaknesses not being discovered before the release of major updates or initial software deployment. The purpose of security patch updates is to address security vulnerabilities not identified during the release of major software updates or initial software downloads.

Network system attacked

Hackers may exploit devices that have not yet installed known patch updates to establish major entry points or what are referred to as footholds. Rather than utilising the information on the main entry devices for an attack, hackers directly leverage this information to gain access to large-scale mainframe or corporate computer systems, allowing them to steal information or operate within the backend systems of larger system groups.

Experienced hackers often employ this method because their targets are large corporations or enterprise networks and their systems, rather than just individual systems. In other words, this is a method for quickly accessing the entire enterprise or company’s information rather than just accessing data from a few individuals. They may even utilise the entire network instead of individual personal financial accounts to access the company’s financial accounts.

Also read: What is IT hardware asset management?

Prevent system attacks

Determining software updates

To determine which software updates you need to install, start by checking the vendor’s website where updates are typically made available for download. It’s crucial to install updates promptly to safeguard your computer, phone, or other digital devices against potential attackers who exploit system vulnerabilities. Attackers may target these vulnerabilities for extended periods even after updates are released.

Many software applications have automatic update checks, and some vendors offer users the option to receive updates automatically. Utilising automatic update options, when available, is recommended by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). If automatic updates aren’t an option, regularly visit the vendor’s website to manually check for updates.

Ensuring secure software updates

Ensure that you only download software updates from trusted vendor websites. Avoid clicking on links in email messages, as attackers have been known to use such links to direct users to websites hosting malicious files disguised as legitimate updates. Be cautious of email attachments claiming to contain software updates, as these attachments may contain malware.

Whenever possible, apply automatic updates from trusted network locations such as home or work. Avoid updating software while connected to untrusted networks like those found in airports, hotels, or coffee shops. If updates need to be installed over an untrusted network, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to a trusted network before applying updates.

Fewer people choose to fix the patches and updates

Although patching vulnerabilities is critical to system health, too few people prompt them to do so. That’s why 60% of data breaches can be traced back to unpatched vulnerabilities.

In late May, Microsoft issued multiple warnings about the need to patch BlueKeep, a serious vulnerability discovered earlier this month. Even the National Security Agency has warned of the potential threat of BlueKeep, but experts say not enough people are patching it. It is estimated that there are still about a million machines on the public Internet that are vulnerable.


Sissy Li

Sissy Li, a news reporter at BTW media dedicated in Fintech and Blockchain. She graduated from Macau University of Technology and Science. Send tips to s.li@btw.media.

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