The Dangers to using Unsupported Devices and Software

When was the last time you received an update to the device you are reading this on?

If it was within the last month, you are among the lucky ones. If you are on a Windows 10 PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad then you will receive regular updates, but if you are on Android, then its a bit hit and miss.

Why is this important?

Your device runs using an operating system (Android, IOS, Windows). This is a piece of software that runs all the essential functions on your device, handles any input, displays things to you on the screen and allows you to install and use apps.

Every month vulnerabilities are discovered by security researchers and penetration testers that could give a hacker the foothold they need to compromise your device and extract your personal information. As a result Google, Apple and Microsoft (and other manufacturers like Samsung) publish regular updates to Android, IOS/MACOS and Windows. It is your responsibility to ensure these are installed.

Now, if you are on an Apple device or a Windows PC, you will get regular updates for the life of the device. Android is another matter. Most budget phones are released with an outdated version of Android, and will never see updates. It is normally only the flagship devices that typically are maintained with security updates.

When you next upgrade your Android device, do a bit of research and make sure the manufacturer commits to providing updates. Nokia (trademark now owned by HMD Global) are such a company and have committed to deliver updates for two years following release. You need to determine through reviews whether your next Android device will also get updates.

What about hardware?

Phones have a limited life span, typically two years when your contract comes up for renewal. PC’s and MACs are different, in that they last a lot longer.

PC hardware is refreshed often annually, and sometimes twice a year, to take advantage of the latest CPU chips and device innovations (e.g. USB Type C and 4K displays). However, as Microsoft and Apple commit to updating the Operating System, these device can last a lot longer. The PC I am using now is 3 years old, and runs as smoothly as the day I built it. However, the underlying hardware will fall behind in support.

The PC hardware has software running on it called the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) that interfaces the operating system to the hardware. This is often updated for a period of time by the manufacturer, and it may even be automatically updated. However, after the support period runs out, you will not get any further updates. This is typically around 2 years from release. The BIOS has bugs in it, like any software, and some of them have a security implication. If these are not updated your PC may be vulnerable to cyber attack.

So long as you are running an up to date Anti Virus product, you should be safe but there is always that possibility. The answer is to update your hardware regularly, but this can be expensive so we won’t actually go there. You should also keep your operating system updated which will help to mitigate any issues.

What about apps?

Apps get updated all the time, and you really should ensure they are updated on a regular basis to the most recent version. Windows Apps installed outside of the Microsoft Store (and to some extent MAC Apps too), are often let slip – once installed they are forgotten. Most apps these days have an auto-update feature, which you should make use of but this can sometimes involve paying for a new version so be careful.

Conclusion

You really need to keep on top of device and app updates to keep yourself secure. If you don’t then you are wide open to having a cyber attack be successful. This is particularly important for mobile devices (Phones, Tablets, Laptops) since you will also be attaching them to public WiFi which is a very unsafe playground to be in.

When you upgrade your smart phone or tablet, do some research to make sure the device is updated by the manufacturer.

If you are on Windows 7, be advised that your updates run out in January 2020, so now may be the time to refresh that laptop.


Headline image provided by ShutterStock

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