Why updates are important
The LastPass breach as an examples
LastPass is one the most popular password managers with more than 33 million users. Given the product - securing millions of passwords for their customers - the company obviously invests a lot into security and into keeping their systems secure. They have a lot of security measures in place to prevent breaches of their customer database. Simply put: You will find not many companies that invest so much time and effort into security as LastPass.
Regardless, LastPass suffered the worst data breach any password manager company ever had in 2022. An indefinite number of passwords were stolen (encrypted) - just because one of the DevOps engineers had an outdated Plex server running at home.
The attackers were able to install a keylogger via the Plex vulnerability - that was patched years ago, but the LastPass employee never updated their system at home. With the keylogger in place, the attackers were able to steal login information from this employee which enabled them to hack into the LastPass system, stealing backups of all customer vault data as well as other sensitive information.
LastPass themselves stated:
"All sensitive customer vault data, other than URLs, file paths to installed LastPass Windows or macOS software, and certain use cases involving email addresses, were encrypted using our Zero knowledge model and can only be decrypted with a unique encryption key derived from each user’s master password. As a reminder, end user master passwords are never known to LastPass and are not stored or maintained by LastPass – therefore, they were not included in the exfiltrated data."
To sum it up: The massive LastPass breach was caused by a simple mistake - an engineer's failure to update Plex software on his home computer. This is a stark reminder of the importance of keeping software up to date to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.
Read everything about the LastPass breach on the LastPass blog.
3 reasons for software updates
To me, personally, the 3 reasons why updates are important can be summarized easily: Security, security, security.
Yet, if you are looking for a more detailed answer, I can elaborate. 😀
Data breaches, hacks, cyber attacks and identity theft are common threats when you use the internet.
While cybercrime is on the rise globally, we as users must remain diligent in ensuring that our data is protected. The best security guideline for personal security is keeping your software up to date and maintaining a healthy password strategy.
Check out our tips on how to create and remember a strong password.
1. Security vulnerabilities must be patched to protect your data
As said, the most important reason to update software is security. As the LastPass breach has shown: No system is 100% secure. Hardware and software updates help to address known vulnerabilities and mitigate potential threats. Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, and attackers are always finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in software and hardware systems.
To keep your system as secure as possible, security vulnerabilities must be patched as quickly as possible. Most software providers patch vulnerabilities quickly and distribute the software to the users. Thus, it is important that users keep their software up-to-date, and do not run outdated software. Otherwise their systems are still vulnerable. What is worse: After a patch, the vulnerability is oftentimes disclosed and users are informed about the incident.
This means while updates provide essential security patches to address vulnerabilities, it will be even easier for threat actors to abuse vulnerabilities after they have been patched - if the users do not update their systems. This is particularly true for zero-day vulnerabilities that were previously unknown to the vendor or the public.
To potential attackers vulnerabilities are like invitations that enable them to plant malware, like keyloggers or encryption software, that enables them to either steal data and login credentials from you or blackmail you with the promise of decrypting maliciously encrypted data like files, photos, and documents again, also known as ransomware.
Should an attacker get access through a software security flaw, they will search your device for personal data such as passwords, other login credentials like user names, financial information, or other documents with sensitive information. They could then sell this information on the dark web.
Protect your data and your login credentials!
Updating your software helps you stay ahead of malicious attackers and makes sure that your data and your login credentials remain secure. Extra diligence is required if you share a network: Threat actors could gain access to the whole network if they find an access point via a vulnerability.
Security patches are thus the most important reason why you should update your software regularly.
As we at Tutanota focus on security, we actively disable outdated versions if a security vulnerability has been detected and patched. This is to make sure that no one uses the outdated version by accident, not knowing that their sensitive information could be at risk.
While not so important, there are other benefits as well that will make you want to update your system.
2. New features, better usability
Most of the time, updates are not about fixing vulnerabilities or security patches, but about improving the software in regards to performance and features. Updates are usually released to optimize existing features, add new features, or to improve functionality, design and usability of a software. These updates can also improve performance and fix bugs and glitches that could have caused slow performance or crashes.
3. Ensure compatibility
In the technology industry everything is in flux: Improvements are made constantly on all systems, also on the hardware people use. Updates of operating systems offer better functionalities that software services need to watch closely to make use of these improvements for their own products.
However, this also entails that outdated hardware can not always be supported by software vendors. Updates make sure that the software remains compatible with new hardware and operating systems, this way the software continues to function properly and can interact with other devices.
Because we at Tutanota prioritize security, we only officially support the latest three versions of supported operating systems and browsers. This is to make sure that people do not use Tutanota via outdated systems.
Beware of phishing
When it comes to updates, bad faith actors also try to abuse the constant nagging of hard- and software to update to trick users into falling for fake update messages, usually sent via email. Don't fall victim of such phishing emails.
One of the best ways to prevent falling for such fake messages is to let software update itself. Most providers offer automatic updates, which you can define in the Settings.
Software updates are essential to prevent security issues, and to improve usability and compatibility. Software updates are required to keep your mobile devices, computers and tablets running smoothly and securely.
They provide critical patches and fixes for known vulnerabilities, address zero-day vulnerabilities, enhance security features, and ensure compliance with security regulations and standards.
Regular updates make sure that software continues to function properly, remains secure, and is optimized for maximum efficiency. By staying up to date, users can improve their experience, protect their data, and take advantage of new functionalities.