Writing by John Nicholas 

The short answer is yes. 

It is common these days to see an alert on your phone, tablet or computer that informs you that an update is ready to download and install. These updates can cause some inconvenience, depending on when the alert comes. In the middle of a busy day or when you are not on Wi-Fi, updating at the moment can be difficult if not impossible. 

But there are different levels and types of updates that require different considerations. Sometimes updates include security patches that address immediate threats.

The most common types of updates are operating systems updates, security software updates, application software updates and firmware updates. All of these are important for your cybersecurity, but each one has unique importance. 

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The operating system (OS) on your machine is software that provides an interface between you and computer hardware. Every computer must have at least one OS to run other programs. The most common operating systems on the market are Windows, Mac OS, Apple iOS, Android and Linux. An operating system update keeps you up to date with the latest drivers, system utilities and security software.

Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in the source code of operating systems. OS updates address these vulnerabilities and often close the door to hackers. Set your operating system to automatically update as soon as the updates are available. These may come at inconvenient times, but they should be updated as soon as possible.

The security software on your machine is anti-virus software, anti-malware software and the like. If you do not have antivirus or anti-malware protection on your devices, download and install something right now. The most popular brands are Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender and Malwarebytes, but there are many options available.

This software should also be set to automatically update. New viruses and malware are released every hour of every day, and your software cannot protect you against new threats if you do not keep this up to date.

The application software on your devices, often just called “apps,” are vulnerable also. They’re just another type of software. 

If the option to automatically update your apps is available, take advantage of it. If that option is not available, then you have a few options. The first is to routinely check each app for an update each time you start it, or set aside time every week to do so. That is time-consuming and tedious. The other option is to download an Updater program such as Patch My PC, OUTDATEfighter or UCheck. All of them will update most, if not all, of your software for you.

The firmware on your devices are small software packages that reside inside of your hardware devices. Firmware is software for hardware. It’s how the hardware “talks” to the operating system, drivers and other programs on your machine. 

While this is the least common type of update, it is as important as the other updates and should be performed as soon as possible.

Not all updates are critical for security. Some updates contain bug fixes that simply make software or hardware work better. But they are all important. When you see any kind of update, you should perform it as soon as you can — even if it is an inconvenience at the time.

I would like to hear your questions and concerns for future articles. You can reach me at jbnicholasphd@gmail.com.

Dr. John B. Nicholas is a Professor of Computer Information Systems and Co-Founder of the Cybersecurity Degree Track at The University of Akron. Dr. Nicholas has over 30 years experience in the technology field in both the private sector and higher education.

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