Skip navigation

Gentle January

Just Accept the Dang Software Update

Installing patches right away will help keep you safe from hackers

Digital illustration of the words “Gentle January” over a field of pixelated flowers; in the right-hand corner there is the number “3” placed on a stack of post-its
Gabriel Hongsdusit

The Gentle January series shares one practical privacy tip a day from a Markup staffer who actually uses the advice in their own life.

When fending off hackers, you’re not in it alone. Yes, vulnerabilities in the software you use can be exploited by cybercriminals to steal your personal data. But software makers constantly work to identify such vulnerabilities and patch them. All you have to do is install these fixes as soon as you are notified that a software update is available.

It can be a hassle, sure—especially when an update requires you to restart your computer while you’re in the middle of doing something else. But the longer you wait to install a security update, the longer hackers have to exploit known security issues for their nefarious ends. Making sure your software is updated is also a more effective way of keeping hackers at bay than paying for antivirus software.

Accepting software updates can be, in a weird way, something of a mindfulness practice.

I make a point of accepting all software updates immediately. Well, almost all software updates.  There are some cases when it’s best to exercise a bit of discretion. 

“Always make sure you’re installing updates directly from the source,” advised Selena Larson, a senior threat intelligence analyst at the cybersecurity company Proofpoint. “Right now, there are lots of ‘fake update’ scams making their way around the web—they compromise websites with graphics that look like legitimate website updates and ask you to download a file to update your browser. Your browser will typically never ask you to download a file and install something to stay secure. If you get this popup, just close the tab!”

I’ve found that accepting software updates can be, in a weird way, something of a mindfulness practice. It’s a reminder that whatever you’re doing can probably wait a couple minutes. If it makes you a couple minutes late for a Zoom call, maybe that’s an opportunity to proactively set some very small boundaries. And the time it takes for your system to reboot is the perfect interval to slow down and take a handful of deep breaths. It’s a good way to simultaneously stay centered and unhacked.

We don't only investigate technology. We instigate change.

Your donations power our award-winning reporting and our tools. Together we can do more. Give now.

Donate Now