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Why is IT trying to ruin my life? Part 1: patching

Dan Wons

Dan Wons

This guest post was written by Dan Wons, Vice President of Network & Infrastructure for Cision US.

I am often asked the same basic question in a number of different ways—why is IT trying to ruin my life?  Sometimes this metaphysical query takes more practical forms such as “Why does my PC want to reboot to apply patches all the time?” or “Why is the anti-virus program making my PC so slow?” or “Why can’t I install software on my PC?”  The list goes on and on.   Believe it or not, IT is not trying to ruin your life or get in the way of your productivity at work or at home.  Quite the contrary, IT organizations are trying to help you stay safe, secure, up and running.  In an effort to try and explain how, I will address patching, the need for anti-virus, and cautiously installing software in a three-part blog series. 

It seems like every time someone really needs to get something done on their PC, a window pops up asking the user to reboot the PC to apply the latest security patches.  In reality, this generally only happens once a month and usually on the second Tuesday or Wednesday.  Microsoft puts out critical security fixes to their operating systems and applications on the second Tuesday of each month.  At work, these updates are generally pushed out to computers shortly after this release date.  At home, you may or may not be configured to receive Automatic Updates.  If your home PC is not configured to automatically apply these updates, you should consider changing that.  Part of the reason for this suggestion is that in publishing a monthly security bulletin, Microsoft is making public all of the known security holes in their products.  This gives attackers who want to try and exploit your PC a head start by telling them exactly where to look.

If you want to check whether or not your home PC is setup to automatically receive these updates, you can check the Security Center.  In Windows XP this can be found by clicking Start, selecting Control Panel, and then clicking on Security Center.  From here you can configure your PC to automatically download critical updates.  One thing to be careful of is that sometimes Microsoft will deem an Operating System service pack or upgrade to Internet Explorer as critical and try to push these out with their security updates.  These kinds of upgrades can interfere with the functionality of your system or other applications.  If you are concerned about this you can always configure your updates to be approved by you first and then only select security updates rather than product upgrades to be installed.

Microsoft is not the only company to put out security updates nor are their applications or operating systems any less secure than others.  It will probably make the Mac and Linux supporters of the world angry to hear me say this, but their products need patching too.  Microsoft’s security flaws receive the most publicity (and attacks) because they are the most widely used products in the industry.

So while it might sometimes seem like a pain to have to reboot your PC to apply patches each month, it’s a simple inconvenience compared to having your system rendered unusable by some kind of attack or your identity stolen by a hacker.  Not patching leaves your PC/Server/Mac more vulnerable.  Couple this with an insecure password and your personal information/identity is at an even greater risk.

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