Next time you’re tempted to hold off on installing software updates, remember why these updates are necessary in the first place says Phil Muncaster, guest writer at ESET
Technology enables us to do wonderful things. The PCs and mobile devices at the center of our digital world are an indispensable part of our personal and working lives. They offer us a gateway to social media, online banking, media streaming, instant messaging, fitness tracking, and much else besides. Depending on your circumstances they may also be an essential tool for work. But they’re also permeated by software that needs to be updated if you want a secure and optimized experience.
The more software you have on these devices, the more likely it is that your use of them will be interrupted at some point by an update notification. But next time you’re thinking about hitting “decline” or “postpone”, remember why updates are necessary in the first place. As the need to keep your software up to date is also one of the core messages of this year’s edition of Cyber Security Awareness Month, this is a timely opportunity to look a little more closely at why software updates matter.
Why bother updating?
The software runs the world. There was an estimated 230 billion app downloads in 2021 alone, up by over 63% since 2016. And it’s claimed the average smartphone user has 40 separate apps installed. That’s not to mention the other devices you may be using: PCs and laptops, as well as fitness trackers and other smart technology.
All of these applications need updating, as does the underlying operating system (OS), web browser, and possibly firmware – a special type of software that hooks into device hardware. Multiply this across multiple machines and devices and those annoying update pop-ups could amount to a major productivity headache. But updates are essential for several reasons:
Updates keep you more secure
Software is written by humans. That means the underlying code is prone to human error. Sometimes these errors – known as software vulnerabilities – can be exploited by malicious hackers, who can then take advantage of these security flaws. Such attacks can start with attempts to get people to click a malicious link, open an attachment in a message or lure them to specially crafted malicious websites. The end result can be remote code execution on vulnerable systems or malware downloaded to the device, which is designed to steal login information and any personal and financial data stored in the apps or on the device/PC.
That means threats such as:
- Identity theft and fraud
- Hijacking of sensitive apps and accounts like online banking accounts
- Ransomware designed to extort you by encrypting the files on your machine until you pay
- Cryptojacking, where a hacker uses your computer to illegally mine for cryptocurrency, increasing your energy bills and running down your equipment
- Botnet malware that hijacks your machine and uses it to attack others
Updates fix these vulnerability problems by upgrading your operating system and other software to the latest version, which “patches” the security issue in question.
Updates will keep your friends and family safe
It goes without saying that any shared computers at home that aren’t updated could expose not just your accounts and personal and financial information to attackers, but also those of your family members or housemates. Hackers may also hijack your email, messaging, and social media accounts to send hidden malware to your contacts. So, by keeping your devices and software on the most secure version, you’ll be doing your friends and family a favor, too.
Updates will ensure you have the best-performing device
Software updates don’t just keep your device secure. They are also issued to fix any performance issues the developers may have identified. So updating could help enhance your battery life, stop apps and other programs from crashing due to glitches, improve the speed at which pages load, and add a range of other functionality designed to make the user experience better. In other words, you deserve the best, don’t you?
Updates give you the latest functionality for free
Software developers also use updates to enable new features for their users. Consider an iOS update – the latest of them had a huge range of new capabilities, from message editing and customizable lock screens to Apple Pay enhancements and even a Safety Check feature to help people in abusive relationships. Again, who wouldn’t want to be on the latest and greatest version of their software?
Updates will head off trouble with your employer
Many companies insist that their remote working employees use only corporate-owned devices, which will have their own update mechanisms. But some may allow staff to use their personal devices to connect to corporate networks and access business apps in the cloud. However, if these devices are compromised because you failed to update key software, there could be trouble.
An attacker could steal your corporate logins to access sensitive company data and systems Or they could use the same access to infect the corporate network with malware. This could lead to a serious data breach or ransomware attack. The average cost of data breaches today stands at nearly US$4.4m per incident.
Other things to consider
To make matters easier, most devices and PCs today have automatic updates turned on by default. If for some reason yours doesn’t, a quick web search will show you how. Also, consider:
- Backing up regularly, in case an update breaks your machine/device and you lose any data
- Taking care where to download software from in the first place: only use approved app stores
- Adding extra security to your environment with security software for PCs and other devices, from a reputable provider
Ultimately, updates are about getting the safest, freshest, most feature-rich experience possible. That’s something every technology user should be on board with.
Is Apple’s New ‘NameDrop’ Feature a Cause for Parental Concern?
In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, Apple’s new iOS 17 update has introduced a feature that’s sparking a mix of curiosity and concern: NameDrop. This functionality allows users to share contact information with others seamlessly, but it’s not without its set of caveats and considerations.
At the core of the apprehension is the proximity-based nature of NameDrop. For the feature to work, both devices must have iOS 17 installed, be unlocked, and be in close physical proximity – a touch is required to initiate the contact transfer. The user experience involves a swift interaction, prompting a screen at the top of the device with options to “receive only” or “share.”
The need for consent is emphasised in this process. Both users must actively participate in the transfer, acknowledging and approving the exchange of contact information. This deliberate approach is aimed at ensuring that the sharing of personal data is a conscious and intentional act.
However, the rollout of NameDrop has not been without its share of concerns, particularly among parents and law enforcement agencies. Police departments across the United States have issued warnings, urging parents to manually disable the feature on their children’s devices. The fear, it seems, is rooted in the potential for unintended consequences, especially considering the close physical interaction required.
Is it wise to err on the side of caution and turn off NameDrop? Perhaps. Is it time to hit the panic button? Not necessarily, according to experts in the field. In a report by The Washington Post, Chester Wisniewski, a digital security expert at Sophos, dismisses the concerns surrounding NameDrop as “hysteria” and “nonsense.” He suggests that Apple has implemented safeguards to prevent inadvertent information sharing.
One key aspect that should offer reassurance is the need for mutual consent and the deliberate physical proximity required for the feature to activate. The intentionality of this process is to eliminate the risk of accidental data exchanges, putting control firmly in the hands of the users.
As with any technological advancement, understanding and awareness play pivotal roles in ensuring a positive user experience. Educating users, especially parents and guardians, about the intricacies of NameDrop can empower them to make informed decisions about its use. Apple, being at the forefront of user privacy and security, is likely to continue refining and enhancing the feature based on user feedback and evolving security standards.
While the warnings from law enforcement underscore the importance of vigilance, it is crucial to approach the situation with a balanced perspective. The benefits of a feature like NameDrop, enabling seamless contact sharing in a world where connectivity is key, should not be overshadowed by fear.
Apple’s NameDrop feature introduces a novel way of sharing contact information, but its success hinges on user awareness and responsible usage. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the safeguards and features aimed at ensuring a secure and positive user experience. By staying informed and engaged, users can navigate the landscape of advancements like NameDrop with confidence.
Password Management: Creating, Storing, and Managing Secure Passwords
Navigating the complexities of online security begins with effective password management. This article aims to provide practical advice on creating, storing, and managing passwords, ensuring your digital safety with an approach that is both informative and user-friendly.
Crafting Unbreakable Passwords: A Practical Approach
Creating a strong password is more than a security step; it’s a necessity in today’s digital world. Follow these guidelines to enhance your security:
- Length Matters: Passwords should be at least 16 characters long. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that longer passwords significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
- Complexity is Key: Combine different character types for a robust password. Use a blend of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Memorable Phrases: Create passwords using unusual phrases or sentences. Think “VanGoghStarry1Night!” instead of “Password123”.
The Importance of Diversifying Passwords
Using the same password for multiple accounts is like having one key for every lock. Diversify your passwords to ensure that a breach in one account doesn’t jeopardize others. According to a report by Verizon, 80% of hacking-related breaches are due to weak or stolen passwords.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Your Safety Net
Incorporating MFA can significantly increase your account security. This method, which often involves receiving a code on your mobile device, adds an extra layer of protection.
Personal Information: The Password Pitfall
Avoid using easily guessable personal information in your passwords. Cybersecurity experts warn that personal details are often exploited by hackers.
Password Managers: The Organizational Tool
A password manager is a secure and practical way to store and manage passwords. These tools also help in generating strong passwords. Consider options like LastPass, KeePass, or Keeper, based on your personal preference and needs.
Regular Updates: Key to Continuous Protection
Regularly updating your passwords can dramatically reduce your vulnerability to cyber attacks. Cybersecurity experts recommend changing passwords every three to six months.
Stay Informed: Your Best Defense
Staying updated with the latest cybersecurity trends and threats is essential. Never share your passwords, and always be alert to phishing attempts.
Embracing Secure Password Recovery Methods
Secure Password Recovery: It’s essential to establish secure methods for password recovery. Cybersecurity experts advise against using easily guessable security questions. Instead, opt for two-factor authentication or a secondary email for recovery. According to a report by Google, this simple step can prevent 100% of automated attacks.
The Role of Biometrics in Password Security
Biometrics Integration: The use of biometrics (like fingerprint or facial recognition) in conjunction with traditional passwords is becoming increasingly popular. This method, known as biometric authentication, adds an extra layer of security. A study by the University of Michigan showed that biometrics could reduce the time spent on password entry by 78%, enhancing both security and convenience.
Navigating Public Wi-Fi and Password Safety
Public Wi-Fi Risks: Be cautious when entering passwords on public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are often unsecured, making them hotspots for cybercriminals. The Federal Trade Commission suggests using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your internet connection in such scenarios. Additionally, services like Cisco Umbrella can provide an extra layer of security by offering internet gateway protection. This service not only secures your connection but also helps in blocking malicious sites and phishing attempts, making it a valuable tool for anyone frequently using public Wi-Fi.
The Evolution of Passwords: Future Trends
Future of Passwords: Stay abreast of evolving technologies in password security. Innovations like single sign-on (SSO) systems and blockchain-based passwords are shaping the future of digital identity management. A survey by TechCrunch indicated that 65% of tech professionals believe traditional passwords will be obsolete in the next five years.
Educating Others: Spreading Password Safety Awareness
Spreading Awareness: Educate family, friends, and colleagues about password safety. Sharing knowledge and best practices can dramatically reduce the collective risk of data breaches. The National Cyber Security Centre reported that promoting basic password hygiene could prevent up to 80% of common cyber attacks.
Tailoring Your Password Strategy
Remember, password management is not one-size-fits-all. Consider your unique digital habits and needs when implementing these strategies. Personalization is key to effective password management.
In the intricate web of digital security, password management plays a vital role. By embracing advanced recovery options, considering biometric solutions, exercising caution on public networks, keeping pace with technological trends, and sharing knowledge, we can fortify our digital defences. Effective password management is not just about creating strong passwords; it’s about adopting a comprehensive approach to digital safety, tailored to our unique needs and the evolving cyber landscape.
Levelling Up Your PC Game Marketing to Capitalise on the MENA’s Gaming Boom
By Adam Smart, Director of Product – Gaming, AppsFlyer
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to the world’s fastest-growing gaming market — an estimated 377 million players, which is more than all of Europe combined (386 million) and considerably more than the US (210 million). Gamers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) combined have topped 65 million by 2021 and this number is predicted to reach almost 86 million by 2025. MENA gaming revenue is set to reach more than US$5 billion by 2025. In the UAE, where nine in every 10 adults say they play video games, the country’s gaming market is expected to reach more than $306 million this year.
One segment that has been growing consistently is PC and console gaming. As the growth has occurred, the PC gamer has evolved. No longer exclusively the domain of World of Warcraft aficionados brandishing their “l33t” statuses in front of hordes of “noobs”, the PC market is more diverse, and therein lies the opportunity. First, we have to temper the excitement by reminding you that enthusiasm is no substitute for strategy. Paid and organic moves must combine in a journey of iteration and learning. Hype must be built patiently, in four steps.
Pick Your Genre
You start out with a dream. You want to learn. You want your game to be played. So, the first thing you will do is determine — through research on marketplaces like Steam — what your best positioning is. What genre should your game inhabit to give you the best chance of momentum? Your genre will determine your competition and revenue potential. Each genre releases different numbers of games and has different sales volumes and average revenues per user (ARPU).
Consider a less competitive genre to start with, so you can build some revenue before embarking on more ambitious projects. Consider what kind of streamers play in this genre and how your game’s art style and vibe may fit their tastes. And get to know where your audience consumes content — Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, or others.
Get to Know Steam
Steam is the largest gaming marketplace, where visibility and downloads play out a little differently to Google Play or the App Store. Standing out among 50,000 other games and drawing players from among 130 million monthly active users is a daunting goal. Make sure you pay attention to your capsule (the hero image that represents you in the store). An attractive, professional design is more likely to pique interest. Next, craft your landing page to be a polished artefact that intrigues and inspires browsing — great imagery, short trailers, and lots of gameplay footage. And tag your game to ensure discovery. Steam is known for its window shoppers, so make sure they can add your game to their wish lists. This is a great marketing tool, an effective social wedge, and a sustainable driver of sales.
Leverage UA Channels
As an indie developer, signing with a publisher can help a lot with marketing, especially if your budget is tight. You can also get the word out through alpha and beta releases. Apart from hype, this is a way to keep your most loyal players engaged. Use tools like Sullygnome, Playboard, or HYPR to find well-known gamers/streamers. Many streamers made the difference for games once they started playing them on Twitch. Also check out online festivals like GDC, PAX, Tiny Teams, and Summer Game Fest to further build awareness. And if you have the budget, look into Meta ads, Twitch ads, and YouTube ads.
Find out which platforms host your potential gamers. Engage with them wherever they are. Run your campaigns on channels with which you are familiar, such as mobile and Web. Do not rule out CTV (connected TV) ads or offline ads to capture interest at bus stops and metro stations.
Measure and Optimise
By this point, you will have built a hype train. Now, you must measure its efficiency. You need to know your most profitable campaigns and channels and to do this, you need to measure and attribute conversions accurately. This is not easy in the multichannel haze in which the modern consumer dwells. A gamer could have spotted a Tweet, then watched a CTV ad, then a mobile ad, and then been confronted with a billboard. Which drove their conversion? Today’s marketing measurement and analytics solutions, backed by the right partner, can help organisations connect these dots to the purchase of your game. These platforms even offer a real-time view of campaigns’ performances across multiple channels and devices — a critical capability for branching out to sell games on consoles.
You Just Levelled Up
PC and console gaming sales are a world apart from mobile markets. But provided you understand the target genre and make the right moves on Steam (including wish lists), you should be in the necessary visibility bracket to take your campaign to the next level. Get social, plug yourself into the channels where your target gamers can be found. Enlist a publisher, dole out alpha and beta launches, and cosy up to celebrity gamers/streamers. Be seen at online festivals, spend (if possible) on Meta Ads, Twitch, and YouTube, and consider cross-platform campaigns across mobile, CTV, offline, and Web. But most importantly, measure. And through measurement, as the gamers say, “GiT GuD”.
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