There are never more dirty words regarding computers to the average user than “reboot,” especially when it comes to updating computers with patches. Windows Updates can take some time to download, install, and almost always require a reboot. This takes away from the user’s productive time and, worse yet, forces them to close all those open documents and spreadsheets and websites. It’s more than just inconvenient – it’s an outright hassle. Compounding the issue is the increased frequency of patches for Windows and Java and Adobe et al.
There is a reason behind the madness (or maddening nature, as it were).
For example, Microsoft’s recent release of a security patch for what Microsoft labeled as a “critical” vulnerability to Windows highlighted the importance of updating computers on a regular basis. The patch, released on Monday, July 20, 2015, was so critical that Microsoft published it outside their normal release schedule.
The brief details of the above vulnerability are that something as simple as how a user’s computer handles and displays fonts (OpenType fonts, to be precise) could be exploited so that an attacker could take “complete control” of the system without any knowledge or permission of the computer’s user.
Yes, something as simple as a font could allow a computer to be utterly compromised and hacked.
The take-away here for the average user is two-fold in significance. First, there are still instances where bugs or glitches are found in computers that can allow a hacker to take over control of your computer, even with anti-virus running and up to date. By taking control of the computer, the attacker could then install new programs (like keyloggers to capture passwords as the user types them), view or delete or change any files and data on the system, download any files they choose, et cetera.
The second take-away, and perhaps most important, is the importance of regularly keeping a computer up to date with all its security updates. This routine maintenance is certainly not exciting, it takes time away from other tasks that appear to be more active or productive, and it usually requires a dreaded reboot of the computer.
The old adage of ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ certainly applies to this scenario. Setting a computer to automatically update, and then manually inspecting the installed updates for any failures or problems, goes a very long way to ensuring the protection of a user’s computer and the potentially sensitive data and electronic Protected Health Information that may reside on the machine.
Think of it much the same as an oil change and other preventative maintenance for your car!