Computer Security: Why you should Patch


When it comes to maintenance and upkeep, your computer is more like your car than your toaster. Your toaster may not need any attention, but the car requires oil changes, new tires, tune-ups, and more, to keep it running properly.
In between releases of major versions of security software, software publishers typically release patches to fix what’s broken. There are different kinds of patches and it can help to know the difference between them because some are big fixes and others are small.

Once a month, Microsoft releases their new Security Bulletins identifying new vulnerabilities and providing the links to download the necessary patches. There is typically at least one vulnerability that could result in your computer being controlled remotely by an attacker and enable them to access your personal files and information, or hijack your computer to propagate viruses or mass-distribute spam e-mail.
These Security Bulletins are generally rated as Critical by Microsoft because they consider it fairly urgent that you apply the patch to protect your computer system. If your computer seems to be working just fine, you may wonder “Why bother upsetting the apple cart by applying a patch?” Simple: You should apply the patch as a sort of vaccination for your computer to keep it running smooth. Many viruses, worms, and other malware exploit flaws and vulnerabilities in your system in order to do their dirty work. Your system may seem fine now, but by not applying a patch you might be opening the door for malware or attackers to come in.

Some patches may fix a flaw in some particular service or underlying program that only a relative minority of users actually uses in the first place and which may not be urgent enough for you to bother downloading and installing. However, some flaws may expose your computer to remote attacks that enable the attacker to assume full control of your computer system enabling them to install software, delete files, distribute e-mail in your name, view your personal and confidential data, and more. Obviously, a patch for such a vulnerability has a higher urgency than the first one.

Patches that repair vulnerabilities that can be exploited remotely, in other words, from some other system, rather than requiring the attacker to physically sit down in front of your computer, are even more urgent when you consider that many viruses and worms take advantage of these flaws to exploit systems and propagate to other vulnerable systems. These vulnerabilities provide a relatively easy method of attack for malware authors, and the time frame between the patch being released and a virus or worm exploiting the vulnerability being released on the Internet is getting shorter and shorter.





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