When new software patches are available, you should download and install them as soon as possible. Turning a blind eye to software patches can place your computer — as well as your business’s entire information security (IT) infrastructure — at risk for cyber threats. Patches, in fact, are more important than other types of software updates.
What Is a Patch?
A patch is an enhancement to the current version of a software product. Most patches are designed to fix security vulnerabilities or bugs. They typically don’t add new features, nor do they remove existing features. When developers release a patch, they do so for the purpose of fixing security vulnerabilities or bugs.
Why Patches Are Important
Software products can suffer from security vulnerabilities. Whether it’s an operating system (OS), utility tool or any other software product, it only takes a single security vulnerability to open the doors to hackers. Security vulnerabilities are weaknesses in software that, when exploited, allow hackers to do something they shouldn’t otherwise be able to do, such as log in to a protected system or access sensitive data.
Because they contain so much code, security vulnerabilities often persist in software products. The Windows OS, for instance, contains over 50 million lines of code. As new security vulnerabilities are discovered, though, developers will release patches to fix them. A patch is simply an engagement that fixes either a security vulnerability or a bug.
Don’t Ignore Other Types of Updates
While patches are undoubtedly important, you shouldn’t ignore other types of software updates. By definition, a patch is a type of update. But there are other types of updates. Developers may release updates for new software versions. A new software version will likely have different features than its predecessor. Failure to download and install updates means you won’t be able to take advantage of these features.
Furthermore, developers may stop supporting old versions of their software products. They’ll focus their attention on the newer versions while disregarding the older versions. As a result, the older versions of the software may contain vulnerabilities and bugs that go unfixed.
A patch isn’t necessarily the same as an update. As previously mentioned, patches are a specific type of software update that’s designed to fix a security vulnerability or bug. For maximum protection against cyber threats, you should install them as soon as they are released.