October 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The initiative is spearheaded by the U.S. National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA). It is a collaboration between these U.S. government agencies and industry to raise awareness about cybersecurity, the risks we face from digital crime and cyberattacks, and how to protect ourselves from them. This year, the campaign promotes four key behaviors to strengthen cybersecurity:
The campaign focuses mainly on educating end-users, but the issue of updating software also plays a critical role in securing code bases, software, and applications at the development level. At Mend, we’re proponents of shifting security left at the development stage ― implementing security measures as early as possible in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) ― and shifting security smart, by reiterating security best practice throughout the SDLC. This includes regular and frequent software updates, the most efficient of which are automated. Here’s why they’re so important.
This is perhaps the most obvious factor. The older the software or the components, the more likely they are to have vulnerabilities that attackers will try to exploit, and attackers would have had more time to see if they can find, create, and use flaws to infiltrate your code and your systems. So, it stands to reason that you should regularly and frequently update your software because software updates often include patches for known and new security vulnerabilities. By applying patches when they are released, you can ensure that your codebase is protected as soon as possible, thereby fixing flaws and closing these avenues that malicious actors seek to exploit. Failing to update leaves your system exposed to potential attacks. So, implementing regular updates reinforces your security, and automating the process ensures that it happens frequently, regularly, seamlessly, and with little or no disruption to your development workflow.
Hackers are always seeking new ways to breach cybersecurity. In addition to finding and exploiting vulnerabilities, they’re always developing new security threats and attack techniques, such as using malicious packages to disrupt and harm your software and applications. Automatic updates help you most efficiently stay ahead of these threats by delivering security fixes promptly. Without them, your codebase becomes a tempting target for attackers who know it’s not protected against the latest threats. Be mindful that businesses are using more software and applications than ever before, so manually updating them can be an arduous task. As codebases expand and contain increasingly complex interrelationships between components and dependencies, it becomes almost impossible to manually keep up with the updates necessary to keep them all as secure and efficient as possible. Under these conditions, automatic updates are vital to streamline the process, as they can handle a far greater volume of components than manual updates, and they can do so far quicker, more comprehensively, and with a vastly reduced risk of human error.
Companies in highly regulated industries such as finance, healthcare/pharmaceuticals, critical infrastructure, and defense, must assure their customers and their users that their software and systems are secure. That’s because these industries deploy software and applications that are used in highly sensitive environments, and hold valuable information, which malicious actors could abuse, ransom, or sell. Naturally, these companies are required to implement the most stringent security to comply with legal requirements and industry standards. Failure to do so can result in fines and legal consequences, above and beyond leaving them vulnerable to threats and attacks from hackers and other malicious actors that could seriously damage their business, or even worse, create perilous issues like threats to public health and national security.
Companies involved in merger and acquisition activity are similarly required by law and regulatory bodies to demonstrate robust security and account for the constituent components and dependencies in their software and applications. Furthermore, governments such as those in the U.S., the U.K., the EU, Australia, and New Zealand are leading the way with cybersecurity strategies that will demand more stringent software supply chain security and disclosure. Automatic updates can help ensure that you remain compliant with all of these guidelines and legislation, without constant manual intervention. They provide compliance with ease, by enabling the software updating and remediation process to happen in a way that doesn’t disrupt your development pipelines and your business as a whole.
Software updates not only address security issues but also enhance stability and performance. In addition to creating conditions ripe for vulnerabilities, outdated software can lead to crashes, glitches, and slower performance, all of which can impact your codebase’s overall quality. Automatic updates help maintain a healthy and robust system and ensure that your software runs at peak efficiency. They optimize workflow and enhance productivity by minimizing interruptions caused by security vulnerabilities and performance issues.
And remember, keeping software up to date provides the latest optimizations and refinements from developers. So, software and application updates often include performance improvements, which enable you to work faster and more efficiently than using an outdated version. By extension, this means that the software and apps that you provide to your customers will also improve once you apply updates. Better, faster software means better performance for you and a better experience for your customers. That means happier customers, and that’s good for business. So, it makes sense to make updates as efficient and easy as possible, and that’s done by automating the process.
Software updates also strengthen trust in your products and services. Organizations that provide complex software to their customers understand that their customers must have confidence in them. Reliability of performance and strong security are paramount. Any security breaches or operational issues arising from poorly updated software can damage your credibility with customers and threaten the relationship between vendor and customer. So, regular software updates are crucial. They demonstrate your commitment to providing the most secure and efficient technology. They reassure your customers that you’re the right choice of provider and that their security interests align with yours. Automating updates simply makes this important part of application security as easy and efficient as possible, and as such, it’s also good for business.