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Protect Your Electronic Devices with Regular Updates

iPhone Displaying Software Update Complete

In a time when cyber-attacks and identity theft are becoming all too common, you can (and should) take some steps to ensure that your information stays safe. Of those steps, keeping your electronic devices up to date is one of the most important.

As a device ages, developers, manufacturers, and phone carriers (in the case of Android mobile devices) must try to weigh performance with security. The longer a device is in production, the more time hackers have to find weaknesses in the software or hardware on that device. Every time a vulnerability is found, a decision must be made—to leave the device open to threat or to resolve the threat with a patch that may reduce the device’s performance or create system instability. For example, a recent patch, which was applied to a wide variety of devices with Intel CPU’s, was found to reduce performance by up to 30% on some devices.

When the balance of security and performance becomes uneven, companies often give up on patching their device and will sunset it (drop it from support) when the need for updating and patching reduces performance, making it almost inoperable. Unpatched devices that are no longer supported by software updates are at risk, forcing app developers to drop support for the device as the security risk increases. As a result, the app may stop working on a specific device or software, requiring you to update or upgrade your device in order to continue using that specific app.

In recent years, there have been some major changes in device support based on threat of hacking. Apple, for instance, recently dropped support for all devices containing 32-bit processors in favor of their newer 64-bit processors. Google has announced that they are also phasing out support of 32-bit processor devices, and have recently dropped support for Android versions older than 5.1 Lollipop, leaving devices on older software open to known vulnerabilities.

 

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In this ever-changing digital landscape, here are a few things you can do to ensure your devices are safe:

  1. Frequently check your device for available updates. Most devices are set to alert you to updates automatically. You should make a habit of installing updates when they become available. As stated above, outdated devices can pose a security threat, making you more vulnerable to attack.
  2. If you are the owner of an Android device, it is important to keep track of what versions of Android Google is currently supporting. iOS users should be up to date on which devices are supported and should always keep up on the latest software available, as Apple does not patch prior software versions.
  3. Run anti-malware software on your devices, and make sure that the programs are set to update automatically.
  4. If you own a device that is no longer supported with patches and security updates, it is important that you not use those devices for anything that could put your personal information at risk. These devices make great iPods or play devices for kids, but should not be used for online shopping, online banking, or any other activity where you are inputting passwords or personal information. While replacing a device every few years may seem like a burden, it is a lot more effective to take this proactive step to maintain security than it is to react when something goes wrong.
  5. Keep apps and software you use up to date. Even if you have the latest version of windows, OSX, iOS, or Android on your device, using an app that is out of date can also be a security risk. Set your device to auto-update apps when attached to Wi-Fi, and make sure that you are checking for updates on your computer.
  6. The most frequent way hackers access a system is by enticing a user to click a link. Never click unknown links, or open unknown emails and attachments. These could allow a hacker into the system, where they can potentially exploit unpatched vulnerabilities.
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