Why it matters
We see messages about software updates on our devices all the time, particularly on our phones. Sometimes it’s because new features – like a new set of emojis – are being released. Other times it’s because there are ‘bugs’ in the code that need to be fixed.
No matter the reason, it’s important to install updates when you see they’re available. Software updates aren’t just about adding new features or fixing bugs. They’re also about fixing weaknesses, or ‘vulnerabilities’, in a system.
Vulnerabilities are flaws in an app or software that mean it could be used for purposes other than those intended. It’s these vulnerabilities that can give attackers a way to gain access to your devices and your personal information.
When vulnerabilities are identified, the developers will quickly change the code to resolve the issue and send it to your device as a software update, often through your app store. If you don't install updates as they become available, you could be leaving your device at risk of attack.
How to protect yourself
Timing is important when it comes to updates — the sooner your system is updated, the less time an attacker has to find and use these weaknesses for their own gain.
Don’t ignore updates
Install any updates you’re alerted to as soon as possible. Even better, turn on 'auto-update' so you don’t have to worry about it. You’ll find the option to turn on auto updates in your device settings.
Check your apps
It’s easy to forget that our phones are actually just little computers. We need to put the same effort into protecting what’s on them as we put into protecting 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 features that you’re not comfortable with. You might want Instagram to access your photo library, for example, but your weather app probably doesn’t need to.