Thursday, August 2, 2012

Software Updates, why should I bother?

Why Update
Usually Software updates are released for four reasons:
  1. Patch a security vulnerability; 
  2. Fix bugs;
  3. Add new features;
  4. Pure marketing purposes.
Staying away from the fourth reason, I believe that the most important aspect to apply a software update is to patch security vulnerabilities. Hackers do exploit these security vulnerabilities in order to gain access to your workstation and ultimately compromise your confidential data (passwords, emails, bank accounts).
Usually, when any software is being created it goes through series of phases within its development life cycle (SDLC). Two important parts of this life cycle are quality assurance and user acceptance testing. Yet the best testing any software could get is the Wild Testing.
Wild testing is done when vendors release their software un-officially (leaks, test or evaluation versions) to be tested and reviewed by enthusiastic users.
When these users submit their feedback directly to the vendor or share their experience using social networking media such as Facebook and twitter or even write a detailed review on Cnet they are able to draw the software vendor / developer attention. The developer consequently fixes the problems reported. And therefore a bug free update is released.
Sometimes, the term software update is used instead of software upgrade, this happens when the developer company releases a new version of their software with added features that is didn’t exist in the previous release.  
Most software nowadays, given the proper permission from their operator, has the ability to periodically and automatically check for updates. Moreover you as an operator can configure this software to download and install updated seamlessly and on recurrent basis, without any further more intervention from your part.

Four Software updates that shouldn’t be missed:

1. Operating Systems
Operating systems provide a software platform on top of which other programs, called application programs, can run, examples of operating systems include windows 7, windows XP, ubentu, fedora, snow leopard, Lion, and most recently mountain lion released by apple a week ago.
Vulnerabilities are discovered within an operating system on daily basis, the vendor of that operating system tries to mitigate these vulnerabilities by releasing patches. Since these patches should be able to save the day, you should install updates as soon as you see a prompt to do so, or set the computer to install them automatically.

2. Web Browsers and Supporting Software
Since the internet service and browsing experience is always evolving the ability to keep your data secure becomes a greater challenge. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple ‘s Safari are updated the same way an operating system is updated, while Google’s Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are updated automatically. 
For an ultimate user experience, web browsers need supporting packages like Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Sun Java and Microsoft Silverlight. And therefore due to their popularity, they are often the target of malicious attackers. It is extremely essential to update these type of software as soon as you see an alert.

3. End User Applications
Every now and then applications downloaded from the internet inform their user than a newer software update is released and ready to be downloaded and installed. These software updates are there either to fix bugs within the application or to offer brand new feature: perhaps a new graphical user interface or even better processing speed. Keep in mind that although these updates may not be mandatory, but sometimes these updates fix undisclosed security vulnerabilities within the application. So whenever an application prompts you for an update. Go ahead and do it.

4. Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware Software
New threats are introduced to the information technology field every day. And so, in order immune your PC against these threats you should keep your Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware updated. Usually these protection software update themselves seamlessly without any user intervention. 

Finally, keeping all the software installed on your PC updated can sometimes be hectic, but if you consider the risks you are mitigating, it is definitely worth the hassle

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