Patching: It’s Not Just for IT Anymore

Your IT team undoubtedly has your back, working from home or not, but patching your own machine’s software is one thing you can do to help them out.

When you work in an office, there’s a lot you leave to IT.

Configuring firewalls, setting up email gateways, system backups, patching major systems. These are all things we just expect to happen in the background.

And you know what, it still is, even though you’re now working from home.

But there’s some stuff that once sat with IT which has now fallen squarely in your lap—stuff like configuring your home router, setting up your Wi-Fi network, ensuring the devices you’ve got connected to your home network (which is now ALSO your work network) are up-to-date, etc.

If you’re lucky, you’ve got a good Help Desk at your workplace, staffed with people who have the time, patience, and good humor to help with your problems and technical issues. We’ve got great IT support at my company: Shawn and Tim, sometimes Walter and Jenna, and even John; I love them all!

I’ve heard stories about Help Desk personnel becoming the face of work-from-home security awareness recently, and I find it really encouraging.


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You Can Be Your Own IT

But there is one thing you can probably learn to do without any help from IT: you can update (or patch) your own software.

Let’s face it: a lot of our software updates just happen whether we choose it or not. If you or IT configure automatic updates, you generally just learn about them when you fire up your device and see updates have been applied automatically.

But some other software updates need a little help. Luckily, they tell you they need help, with a notification icon on the app or in the interface. All you need do is start the update!

This does mean, of course, you can’t just ignore it and move on, telling yourself you’ll do it next time. (I used to beg one of our salespeople to please run his updates. When I saw his update notifications, it was like he had food in his teeth—I just couldn’t look at him until he fixed it.)

There are still other updates—precious few these days—where you must go to the system settings and check for updates. If you don’t know what the update process is for your software, look for this. But these days, when keeping software updated is so critical to keeping it secure, it’s a crime for a software maker not to make this super easy.

Join IT in Celebrating Patch Tuesday

If you’re looking for a good time to remind yourself about applying updates, you might consider “Patch Tuesday.”

Patch Tuesday is a tradition that started in October 2003 when Microsoft officially put its regularly scheduled software updates out on the second Tuesday of every month (and sometimes the fourth Tuesday too, if it was needed). Like so many things involving Microsoft, many other software makers followed suit.

Though some have called for Patch Tuesday to fall by the wayside, saying that it’s not frequent enough, the industry’s leading journalist, Brian Krebs, reports every month on the content of these major software updates. It’s like a holiday for nerds, so why not use it as your reminder too?

What Happens If You Don’t Patch?

Patching or updating your software isn’t just the quickest path to getting new features, though it’s sometimes promoted this way to entice people into updating.

What most IT pros know is that nearly every software update contains some security upgrade to help make your application or your system more secure. In fact, some of the best known data breaches (Equifax for one) are directly attributable to someone failing to patch important enterprise software—and the companies and even individuals who fail to patch come under a lot of heat for their oversight!

Now, it’s unlikely you’re going to cause a massive data breach because you don’t patch your home router software or update your Apple Watch. But if you get both new features and more security with just a few moments of effort, why not do it? You’ll still be able to bug your friendly Help Desk folks for other stuff.


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Check out more content from Tom Pendergast on his blog Confessions of an Awareness Nerd.

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