Software applications are developed in cycles called iterations. That is, developers work for a few months and come up with what is literally called a minimum viable product, then they continually add new features and bug fixes after a certain period. Popular apps like Facebook have patches on a monthly basis, though most have updates made available to the public as soon as they’re ready.
This method of software development gets the app to market quickly, because otherwise, they will 1) run the risk of becoming obsolete, and 2) miss out on monetizing their project as soon as possible. The breakneck speed at which applications are built means end users get to enjoy marvelous tech innovations sooner. However, shorter development times are normally followed by quality assurance tests that are even shorter. This means that end users get applications that may still have a lot of wrinkles that have yet to be ironed out.
Many of these wrinkles are just programming bugs — mistakes in the code that make the software not function as intended. But sometimes, faulty programming creates zero-day vulnerabilities — cybersecurity weaknesses in the software that the developers aren’t aware of and may be exploited by hackers if the latter discover the holes in the code first.
Cybersecurity is a continual sprint against hackers
Now that you have a clearer picture of how software is developed, you understand how crucial it is to apply software patches as soon as they're released. Developers and cybersecurity specialists are always in a race to scour their products for flaws so that they’ll get to these first before cybercriminals do.
Even if zero-day attacks are rare when compared to phishing exploits, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since hackers are counting on people’s laziness.
A software patch is a double-edged sword. Once one has been made public, cybercriminals download and reverse-engineer it so that they’ll find the vulnerability and create a way to exploit it. It’s estimated that this can take between one to four days, so the longer you wait to apply that patch, the longer you expose yourself to needless risk.
The antivirus programs on your machines might be out of date
With your IT team swamped with tickets and their own initiatives, cybersecurity maintenance can easily be forgotten on the back burner. If this is the case for your organization, you need to remedy the situation immediately.
Antivirus applications get up-to-date lists of malware signatures with every patch, so letting them collect virtual dust means they won’t be able to detect new malware. The worst-case scenario is that your outdated AV applications give you a false sense of security by reporting that your systems are clean, when these have been in fact infected by damaging viruses.
Let an MSP help you implement software patches
While updating software applications is simple enough for non-IT staff to accomplish on their own, most employees don’t take the initiative because they don’t know how crucial these are for cybersecurity. Others may find it to be tedious and too much of a hassle since it’ll take time away from their duties.
You can start awareness programs and institute IT policies so that everyone in your organization prioritizes cybersecurity, but there’s something else you need to consider: the risk of them losing precious data. Though most software updates leave your files untouched, your staff will most likely be unfamiliar with how to mitigate the risk of data loss in case a technical problem occurs or when they make a mistake.
An MSP, on the other hand, will execute a data storage strategy so your important files are secure while your programs are being patched. Depending on how much data you have and how sensitive your data is, your MSP can suggest a strategy that’s best for you. If, for instance, you only have a few gigabytes of data, your provider can transfer it to another hard disk or external storage. However, if you’re holding protected health information (PHI), you’ll need specialists who are experts in following legal protocols for handling such highly regulated data.
Never take software patches — or any other data security measure for that matter — for granted. To be on top of your firm’s cybersecurity, turn to XBASE Technologies. Our Exponentially Better™ IT services ensure that your systems always run smoothly and are safe from hackers.
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