Sunday, June 19, 2005

It's Tuesday, Do You Know Where Your Update Is?

Well I know Tuesday has come and gone, but the need for updating your computer is still just as critical. Actually, it's not your computer you update, it's your operating system. Windows to be exact.

What's the big deal about updates?

Well, the second Tuesday of every month is when Microsoft releases the latest batch of security and windows patches. While a critical patch isn't necessarily released every month, it's extremely important for you to check the Windows Update website ( on a regular basis just in case there is a patch available.

Why? Well, because if there is a security hole in Windows or Internet Explorer, then your computer is vulnerable to the nasties (trojans, viruses, etc) out there. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when your computer will get infected. Each day that you surf without the security patch, you're compromising your personal data.

What's a Security Hole?

Windows is made up of a gazillion lines of computer code. Somewhere along the way, there's bound to be a bug, error, or sloppy programming by the developers who put it all together. It's only a matter of time before some hacker is able to probe and discover that bug and exploit it. That's a security hole.

What's a Security Patch?

Once a hole or vulnerability is found, Microsoft must find a way to re-write the code to close the hole while ensuring the rest of the operating system continues to function. That's a patch. Sometimes the patch creates other problems or holes, but lately it's better to patch first then fix later.

Why bother patching if the solution creates more problems?

The problem is that, once a flaw or hole is discovered, scumbag hackers will try to exploit it quickly before the "gateway" or open door to your computer is closed. It's a game of cat and mouse, where unfortunately the mouse's prize is your personal data. It's not worth the risk of going unpatched.

If you have Windows XP, there is a feature where Windows will automatically check for, and download (if selected) the security patches automatically. But you have to turn this feature on. You can do this by clicking on Start, Control Panel, and clicking on the 'Automatic Updates' icon. Select the 'Automatic' item. As long as your computer is left on when the selected time is set, your computer will go out and check for security updates automatically.

If you have an earlier version of Windows, then you must manually go out and check for security updates. You can do this by opening up your Internet Explorer browser, clicking on the 'Tools' menu item, then clicking on 'Windows Update'. Then click on 'Express Install'. Make sure you install any updates labeled as "critical".

Don't go out there unprotected. It only takes a minute to ensure that you cover yourself. It's not only free to get the security patches, but it's common sense to surf safe.