InfoSec / Cyber

Be Cyber Aware: Why regular software updates are important

Be Cyber Aware: Why regular software updates are important

Hackers and cyber criminals are continuously searching for vulnerabilities in software and systems to exploit for their own malicious gains.  

What are Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

Zero-day vulnerabilities refer to software flaws or weaknesses that are unknown to the software vendor and, consequently, unpatched at the time of discovery by cyber criminals.  These vulnerabilities are security holes that malicious threat actors (hackers) can exploit to gain unauthorised access to systems, steal sensitive information, disrupt services, or execute malicious code.

The term 'zero-day' signifies that software developers have zero days to respond to the vulnerability before cyber criminals potentially exploit it.  Once a zero-day vulnerability is exploited, it becomes known to the software vendor, and they can begin developing a security patch or update to fix the flaw.

The Dangers of Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

  1. Undetectable Attacks: Since zero-day vulnerabilities are unknown to the software vendor, they lack the necessary security measures to detect or prevent such attacks. Cybercriminals can infiltrate systems undetected, increasing the potential for data breaches and compromising privacy.

  2. Targeted Exploitation: Zero-day vulnerabilities are highly sought after by skilled hackers and state-sponsored cyber espionage groups. These sophisticated attackers can exploit the vulnerabilities for targeted attacks against specific organizations or individuals, amplifying the potential damage.

  3. Expanding Attack Surface: With the increasing interconnectedness of devices and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), the attack surface for zero-day vulnerabilities is expanding rapidly. From smartphones and laptops to smart home devices and critical infrastructure, any system connected to the internet can be susceptible to such attacks.

The Importance of Updates

Software updates play a pivotal role in countering the risks posed by zero-day vulnerabilities. Here's why regular updates are crucial:

  1. Patching Vulnerabilities: Updates often contain security patches that address known vulnerabilities, including zero-day exploits. By promptly installing updates, users ensure that the latest protections are in place, reducing the likelihood of successful attacks.

  2. Enhanced Security Measures: Updates not only patch vulnerabilities but also improve overall security measures. Developers continually refine their software to strengthen defenses against emerging threats, ensuring users have access to the most robust security features available.

  3. Stay Ahead of Cyber Criminals: Software vendors constantly monitor and analyze threats to identify vulnerabilities. Regular updates allow vendors to respond swiftly to emerging risks, closing security gaps before cybercriminals can take advantage of them.

  4. Protecting Personal Data: Updating software helps protect sensitive information, including personal data, financial details, and login credentials. Neglecting updates could expose users to identity theft, financial fraud, and other forms of cybercrime.

  5. Maintaining System Stability: Updates not only address security concerns but also improve system performance and stability. Regular updates ensure that software operates efficiently, reducing the risk of crashes, freezes, or other malfunctions that could be exploited by attackers.

Important information for schools:  you may need to check with your IT provider that they are regularly updating your network and systems as part of their regular maintenance routines.  Ensure you have allowed enough time for them to do this each week.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday

Microsoft fixes three zero-days in May 2023 Patch Tuesday

Cyber Checks

Complete our Information/Cyber Security Checklist to get a graphical (RAG) view of where your organisation is with Cyber Security.

Further information about zero-day vulnerabilities can be found here: NCSC Understanding Vulnerabilities.

What to do in the event of a cyber attack?

Tell someone!  Report to IT. Report to SLT. 

Unplug the computer from the internet by removing the ethernet cable or turning the Wi-Fi off.

If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we would recommend reporting this to Action Fraud: as well as your data protection officer so they can advise about the data loss.  Most cyber crimes like these will also need to be reported to the ICO by your data protection officer.

Isolate the infected device and pass to IT 

Always ensure there are backups you can restore from.

Little Guide to ACTION FRAUD