Why it’s important to install minor operating system updates

It seems like Apple releases updates to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS nearly every week these days. What's going on and why should you be keeping up with all these operating system updates?




By roman
15.03.18 / Security

It’s only been a few months since iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra launched. We’ve already seen ten updates to iOS and seven updates to macOS. Some of these have been to fix bugs, but quite a few have been prompted by the need for Apple to address security vulnerabilities.

 

macOS Updates

 

Have you installed all these operating system updates, or have you been procrastinating? It’s too easy to keep tapping later on the iPhone and rejecting your Mac’s notifications. We’re not criticising, all too often those prompts come at inconvenient times. However, iOS has got better about installing updates during the night, as long as you plug in your iPhone or iPad.

Why you need to update

We know security isn’t always the top of your to-do list. But when serious vulnerabilities come to light, it’s really important to act quickly.  That’s what happened in November 2017, when it was reported that anyone could gain admin access to any Mac running High Sierra by typing root for the username and leaving the password field blank. Apple pushed Security Update 2017-001 to every affected Mac and rolled the fix into macOS 10.13.2.

Part of the problem with security vulnerabilities is that they can be highly complex. You may have heard about the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities. They affect nearly all modern computers, regardless of operating system, because they take advantage of a design flaw in the microprocessors. Unfortunately, organised crime, intelligence agencies, and the like, have the resources to understand and exploit these flaws.

But here’s the thing, security is an arms race. Attackers are constantly trying to take advantage of vulnerabilities. And operating system companies like Apple and Microsoft are then proactively working to block them with updates. If enough people install those updates quickly enough, the attackers will move on to the next vulnerability.

The moral of the story?

Always install those minor updates. It’s not so much because you will definitely be targeted if you fail to stay up to date. But, if the Apple community as a whole ceases to be vigilant about upgrading, criminals will start to see macOS and iOS as low-hanging fruit. As long as most people update relatively quickly, it’s not worthwhile for attackers to put a lot of resources into messing with Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Which is how we’d like it to be.

Backup first

That said, before you install those updates, make sure that you update your backups. It’s unusual for anything to go wrong during this sort of system upgrade. But having a recent backup ensures that if anything does go amiss, you can easily get back to where you were before.

If you need any help or advice about macOS updates or ensuring your machine is backed up correctly, do get in touch.

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