According to an InformationWeek Dark Reading article, “Six out of every 10 users of Adobe Reader are running unpatched versions of the program, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of malware attacks…” (http://www.darkreading.com/risk-management/adobe-patches-flash-zero-day-attack-bug/d/d-id/1098138). Unpatched software is a common problem that we deal with on a daily basis and is often a harbinger of virus infections in computer systems. When a program is not updated or patched, it can be extremely vulnerable.
When software is developed, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of programmers working on the same piece of software at any given time. Each individual or group of individuals can be working on a discreet part of the program but those pieces have to fit together into the whole. To allow these pieces of code to be “stitched” together, programmers will often leave “holes” in the code so they can easily put the whole thing back together again. These programmer “backdoors” are essential in the process but are sometimes forgotten during the finishing phase of the software development leading to software that is vulnerable to hackers. Additionally, sometimes lines of code are inadvertently “broken” and malicious individuals find ways to exploit the code to gain a deeper access to the systems. Because of this, most software and application manufacturers take extreme care to find and patch these exploit points in their software. Still, it is up to the user to make sure the released patches and updates are installed.
Microsoft, the producer of Windows, releases patches and updates at least weekly. Some other manufacturers have monthly updates and others release patches on an as needed basis. The most obvious issue is the software downloaded and installed by users as freeware. This free software is rarely, if ever, patched or upgraded and is often found to be open sourced where individuals with minimal programming skills can modify or “hack” the programs and even introduce malicious code into your system through the unpatched program.
You should always take care to update your software in addition to installing and updating antivirus programs to protect your computer. Make sure your programs are updated or contact your IT support professional to help you with preventive maintenance and updates. Managed services organization can provide patching as a part of their services.