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New software update? Why security updates for your devices matter

You probably use multiple devices a day, including your phone, computer, tablet and maybe even a smartwatch. All of these technologies run on their own unique software. Updating all this software can feel like a chore, but it’s an important part of keeping your tech secure and functional. 

What are software updates?

When you buy a device, it usually comes pre-loaded with a few different kinds of software, the programming and data that enable it to operate. Companies and developers are always working to improve this software and will occasionally release updated versions that can include a variety of improvements. Certain fixes might make your device work faster, while others will enable new features. 

Some updates are more significant than others. A new version of your device’s operating system might be necessary to run applications or drivers, while a software update to an individual app is more isolated.

Security benefits of software updates

When developers release software updates, a major user benefit is increased defenses on your device. Scammers and hackers are always on the lookout for new ways into their victims’ tech, so these software updates are an important way to help stay secure. 

If your software is outdated, hackers may be able to access your device through known gaps, allowing them to perform malicious activity like installing spyware or malware. Ensuring you have up-to-date software keeps your security strong against these digital attacks.

Scammers and hackers are always on the lookout for new ways into their victims’ tech, so these software updates are an important way to stay secure.

Up-to-date software can also help prevent cyberattacks, which are specifically focused on unauthorized access to information . Apps or devices that contain sensitive data — like payment apps — can be especially important to keep updated, as they’ll be attractive targets for attempted cyberattacks. 

Note: Fake software update prompts are a common way to trick users into downloading malicious programs that will install malware and viruses to your device. Always double-check that manual software updates are coming directly from the developer. 

Performance benefits of software updates

The cybersecurity benefits of software updates are important — and are often invisible to the user. But keeping your systems up-to-date can also improve your devices’ performance. 

Software developers want the devices you’re using to work smoothly and quickly. They’re always innovating new ways to improve speed and performance, which you’ll only be able to enjoy if you keep your software updated.

As each part of the software driving your device gets updated, it’s possible that certain apps or programs will fall behind — making it harder for them to talk to each other. When all of your devices’ software is updated, all programs are compatible and functional. 

How to check for software updates

Updates to your device can happen one of two ways: 

  • Automated update: These happen in the background, often without you ever knowing.

  • Manual update: This change requires your approval. If you want to check whether an update is available to make manually, you can usually go into your device settings and search there.

If a software update requires you to take an action like reviewing updated terms of service or approving the update, you’ll likely receive a push notification when you start up the software. (You’ve perhaps clicked “update later” on these manual update notifications before — especially if they require restarting your device. It's best to take the time to update right away.) 

If a software update is ready to download, prioritize the update to ensure your technology is running smoothly and securely. Dismissing the notification may result in you skipping the update altogether, which could potentially put your device at risk.

Stay updated and upgraded

Keeping your devices updated means you’re using the newest and best version of their software. And by proactively setting up automatic updates and checking for manual software updates, you can help keep your digital defenses strong. 

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