Blog Post: To Patch or not to Patch? It’s not really a question.

Cloud 4 (1)Not long ago I had a good conversation with a patron about IT stuff (which is fitting, since that’s what the library pays me to do). During the discussion, he shared that he was apprehensive about updating software on his personal computer and asked me what I thought.

I asked him the names of the programs in question. At the risk of being hunted down by some very large multi-national software conglomerates, let’s just say the programs are all main stream goodies that just about every computer owner has installed on their systems.

As we visited, he told me about the warnings he has popping up and how annoying it is to keep clicking on them to make them go away, kind of like an unwanted game of Whack-a-Mole. I kept digging to get to the heart of the matter—it came to light that he is concerned that some of these companies may be trying to get to more of his information. I don’t think he’s alone in that mindset.

There are often stories in the news of companies “data mining” to get more information on us. I understand the apprehension, but in this case I felt compelled to share a different point of view.

See—as far as I know—the mainstream software giants he mentioned are not into that kind of spying per se, just trying to keep their product as safe as possible. And to that end, I have to recommend that if you have a legitimate software on your system such as Java, Adobe, Microsoft, etc., you should be actively patching it to avoid some of the kinds of things my friend was worried about.

Patches generally are put out by vendors not to get information, but to “patch” a flaw or hole in their software that someone has found and might possibly use to get at your information, wreck your computer, cancel your birthday, or generally bring you misery (A nasty bunch if you ask me). To leave your system unpatched leaves you vulnerable to all manner of unsavory programming that might sneak in one of the holes in the software. Think of it like leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and just hoping for the best even as you listen to a news story about break-ins in your neighborhood; this is not generally a recommended strategy.

As I made that suggestion the conversation then turned to antivirus. But, that’s another day….

So, good people of blogging land, if you have software Whack-a-Mole driving you crazy, patch up and click update!

~Court S.

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