New versions of software are available all the time. Sometimes they’re releasing new features — like a new set of emojis — or fixing ‘bugs’ in the code, like that annoying error message that pops up but doesn’t make sense.
Software updates aren’t just about adding new features or fixing bugs though, they’re also about fixing weaknesses, or vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are parts of the app or software that can be used for purposes other than those intended. It’s through these vulnerabilities that attackers can gain access to your device and your information.
When vulnerabilities are identified, the developers quickly change the code to resolve the issue and send it to your device as a software update, often through your app store. Timing is important here — the sooner your system is updated, the less time an attacker has to find and use these weaknesses.
Don’t ignore updates – install them as soon as possible. Even better, turn on auto update so you don’t have to worry about it!
Update all your devices, including your phone
It’s easy to forget that our smartphones are actually just small computers. That means we need to put the same effort into protecting them as we do our laptops and other devices.
While you’re updating your phone (or setting it to auto update), check the permissions and settings on your apps too. Make sure they don’t have access to any other features that you’re not comfortable with. You might want Facebook to access your photo library, for example, but your weather app probably doesn’t need to.
Delete apps you don’t use - then you won’t need to update them, and you'll free up space on your device.
Remember to update the other, less obvious things around your home or business as well. Many appliances — printers, heat pumps, wireless speakers and garage door openers, for example — are ‘smart’ appliances, which can be controlled remotely, often via a mobile app. It’s good to install the updates for them too.
There are other simple, practical things you can do to help keep your information safe and secure online.