Is Your Operating System Secure?
Is your operating system as secure as you can make it? A lot of people fail to take the simplest step to ensure that they have the best protection against malware and hackers that their Windows operating system can provide. Can you guess what they're missing...?
Securing Your Windows Operating System
So what's the one simple step that many people neglect? They don't keep their systems updated with the latest security patches and Windows Service Packs. It doesn't matter if the root cause is fear, ignorance or laziness. The end result will be a system that is wide open to viruses attacks and privacy invasions.
Microsoft calls these things "critical updates" for a good reason. Security patches plug holes in the Windows operating system that hackers can exploit to plant viruses, steal personal information, and enslave your computer in a botnet used to spread malware and attack other computers via the Internet. Service Packs are major overhauls of Windows that include prior security patches. It really is critical to download and install security patches and Service Packs as soon as they become available. So why don't many people do it?
Here are some of the reasons I hear for not updating Windows, and rebuttals to all of them:
- I can never tell if a popup on my screen, warning me to install or modify something, is really legitimate. I'm afraid I'll accidentally download something malicious.
Yes, you should avoid clicking on unsolicited popups that appear in a browser window (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). Many of these popups present dire warnings that your computer has a virus, and encourage you to run a free scan. See my article Fake Antivirus Software for help identifying the sheep in wolves' clothing, and remember one more thing. There is a difference between a popup and a balloon. Popups will appear in a web browser window, floating in the middle of your screen, and are generally to be avoided. Balloon notifications are attached to the little yellow shield on the taskbar at the bottom of your screen, and should be heeded -- especially if they direct you to apply critical security fixes. (See the graphic above for examples of each.)
- It takes too long to download and install updates and Service Packs.
You don't have to sit in front the computer waiting for updates to be installed! Windows Update can be configured to automatically check for, download, and install critical security updates (including Service Packs) at any time, like when you are asleep or at work. In fact, this is the way it works unless you've turned off automatic updates. Optional updates that do not affect security will not be installed automatically. If you want to live without the latest mouse driver, go right ahead. But don't leave your system open to invaders. Type Windows Update in the Start box and make sure you're flying on auto-pilot.
- I've heard that some updates 'break' Windows installations.
It is extremely rare for an update to cause a problem with a Windows installation. Even if that happens, you can use System Restore (or a backup) to return to a known good state. Users on Windows 8 and Windows 10 have the Repair, Refresh, and Reset tools. I've run Windows Update with the recommended settings (automatically installing all important fixes) for years and have never run into a problem.
- Windows Update said my copy of Windows is not 'genuine' so I could not continue with updates.
In all likelihood, you are running a pirated copy of Windows. Maybe it came with the used computer your bought, or a new one that you purchased from a dishonest seller. Maybe, just maybe, your copy of Windows is legit but for some reason Windows Update doesn't think so.
First, it doesn't matter whether your copy of Windows is legit or not. Microsoft will still provide critical security updates through the Automatic Update utility described above. You just can't use the Windows Update service manually. If you know that you are running a pirated copy of Windows, do the right thing and purchase a legitimate license. Then you will be able to get all of the service packs and optional updates, as well as critical security patches.
Do you have something to add to this conversation? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Aug 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Your Operating System Secure? (Posted: 5 Aug 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved