Upgrades … you know you should complete them, but sometimes they sink to the bottom of your to-do list — not because they aren’t necessary, but because you’re worried about the time and resources required. The problem is, if you put them off too long, you open your systems up to potential – and significant – risks.
You probably heard about the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack, which crippled more than 300,000 machines across the globe, including 80 National Health Services hospitals in the U.K., forcing them to divert patients to other facilities where clinicians weren’t locked out of medical records. Recovery costs across all sectors were estimated at $4 billion. The origin of the attack was linked to out-of-date Windows operating systems. I’d like to say this breach was an outlier, but if you read the news, you know it wasn’t.
Another example was the Equifax breach, which exposed highly personal information — Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and more. The origin of the breach was also linked to out-of-date systems lacking “basic security measures — like patching vulnerable systems,” according to an article published by TechCrunch.
So, if you’ve considered upgrading but the task still lingers at the bottom of your priority list, read on to learn more about why you should bump it to the top.
Addressing security vulnerabilities with upgrades
There are many reasons you should upgrade, but what are the specific security benefits? Here are a few ways upgrading helps:
Patches vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals never take the day off. They constantly exploit software weaknesses, and developers continually work to fix those vulnerabilities. Upgrading gives you access to the most up-to-date patches to protect against those risks.
Provides access to security enhancements. Upgrades often include new security features and enhancements. These enhancements may include better encryption algorithms, stronger access controls, advanced authentication methods, or other additional layers of security to help keep cyber threats at bay.
Supports staying compliant with regulatory rules. Many industries have specific regulatory requirements related to security. Upgrading software supports organizations in meeting these rules, helping avoid legal penalties and other consequences, many of which are linked to demonstrating due diligence in security.
Fixes bugs that open up potential risks. Software upgrades can fix bugs and stability issues. Unresolved bugs, for example, can often lead to exploitation, as we know from the examples of large data breaches shared earlier. Leaving a bug unresolved for too long means more time for criminals to figure out how to exploit it.
Best practices for software upgrades
The best place to start when upgrading to improve security is with a strong plan. First, consider creating a comprehensive internal upgrade strategy that includes a well-documented plan of processes, procedures, and priorities around upgrades. It often makes the most sense to address older software versions first. That’s because not only are older versions sometimes more risky, but also out-of-date software is often expensive to maintain, which means you can enhance security and cut costs.
Other upgrades to prioritize include software with the highest user base, external-facing systems and those that have web access through a web client or aren’t behind a firewall.
Remember, you don’t ever need to go it alone. If you have a trusted partner, tap into that expertise to help you with software upgrades, reducing complexity and minimizing risks. When comparing using internal resources to handle upgrades to leveraging a trusted partner, I’ve often found that working with a partner can save you a surprising amount of time and money while also helping you avoid any potential mistakes.