Maintaining your protection by updating your software

Your PC is now a lot more secure than it was. You have a firewall inspecting incoming and outgoing traffic and you have antivirus checking for any virus or malware activity. The next step is to make sure that your PC's protection level remains up-to-date.

Hackers and security researchers are always finding security holes in Microsoft Windows and popular software. When these holes are reported to the manufacturer they will investigate the security holes and release an update to their software (also known as a patch) that fixes the security holes.

Updating Windows

To make sure that your copy of Microsoft Windows remains up-to-date with the latest critical patches you must configure Windows Update. This is located in the Control Panel under System and Security.

Windows Update has several settings that you can choose. I prefer: Install updates automatically. This means that when updates are available (usually after the second Tuesday of every month) they will be downloaded automatically. If you have had trouble with Windows updates in the past you may wish to choose the option: Download updates but let me choose whether to install them. This will download the updates but it won't install them until you say so giving you enough time to perform backups first (see next chapter) or wait a day or two to see if there are any problems being reported with the latest updates.

Updating third-party software

As well as Windows you should also keep all the software installed on your PC patched. My chosen method is to set all software installed on my PC to check for updates itself if it offers that option. Then once a month I'll run through the software installed on my PC forcing updates if one is available. I'll perform this task after I have performed a backup.

To help you with the task of checking for updates there are security tools available that routinely scan your PC looking for installed programs that are not running at the latest version. Secunia's PSI is one such tool. Some antivirus tools such as AVAST also offer this service. Be warned though that these tools can only check for updates for software they know about. It is still worth you yourself checking every now and then.

Another tip when downloading updates from the internet is to virus scan the download before you run it. Hackers and malware both target software installers available for download from the internet as it is a great way to infect your PC. Plus there are so many fake download sites out there, so make sure you are downloading the software updates from the official site. To scan the download for malware select the file and right-click and choose the option to scan it with your antivirus tool.

Last updated: 12th May 2016

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