Do you have ancient apps on your phone or tablet? Update or delete them. Now.
We as a technology company always encourage people to keep their vulnerable hardware and software up to date. This is a customary security recommendation—everything from your antivirus and operating system to your accounting software will routinely prompt you with an offer to update. Sometimes the updates include new features, but the great treasure they include from a security perspective is patches. Patches are coded solutions to vulnerabilities discovered within the program. They can fix anything from a glitch in the system to a known hacker exploit.
Why do apps matter?
Sometimes a device or program is abandoned. Updates and patches are no longer offered for it.
In cases that involve major organizations such as the Netgear devices we highlighted in last week’s Tech Alert or Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, the abandonment is made public. Warnings are sent out giving notice to the lapse in coverage. Often, warnings are issued far enough in advance that you can substitute a new product without ever becoming vulnerable.
The big deal with apps on mobile devices is that many come from smaller or short-lived vendors. Though downloading these apps grants them access to your phone or tablet, the developers may stop issuing updates without giving you advance notice. The only change you might notice is the lack of periodic update. Michael Covington, vice president at the mobile security firm Wandera, states, “These abandoned applications are on worker devices: they are outdated, and they are not maintained. When the developer stops updating, then vulnerabilities go unpatched, and that is a security issue.”
What can you do?
If you use a Mac, you may already get alerts that tell you when a developer has not updated an app to work on the update of the OS on your computer.
For phones, there does not yet seem to be a concerted effort on the part of manufacturers to give such notice. The responsibility is then on you. Delete apps you have not used in a while—especially if you have not seen a request to update come up on your phone recently. You may even want to make a habit of scrolling through your apps every month or so just to be sure you’re only keeping those which are current—regarding both your use and updates.
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