One of the easiest yet most important things you can do to improve your IT security is to always be running software that is up-to-date and supported. Microsoft Dynamics 365’s new twice-yearly automated updates ensure your business is always running safely without you having to even think about it.
Keeping your software up-to-date is not too different from regularly washing your hands; it’s simple, easy and does wonders for your health. When you stop washing your hands, diseases start to spread and you leave your immune system vulnerable to an attack. Likewise, when you stop updating your software your business is exposed, like a sitting duck, waiting for an attacker to exploit a fault that you’ve failed to patch.
It’s more common than you think
Two of the biggest cyber attacks that took place in 2017 – The Equifax data breach and the WannaCry NHS attack – were a direct result of cyber-criminals leveraging out-of-date publicly known vulnerabilities to their advantage. It didn’t matter how simple or sophisticated the phishing attack or ransomware was, the door that was left open for bad-faith actors to go through was left open because the software these organisations were running was out-of-date and exposed.
Something as simple as making sure the software your running is up-to-date, could have prevented two of the biggest cyber-attacks in U.K. and U.S. history respectively.
Updates are more than just fancy new features
On a personal level, it’s happened to all of us. You’re typing away or about to give an important presentation and your computer starts bugging you about an update it needs to install. You put it off, you'll do it later; you never do, it gets forgotten about and suddenly your two updates behind everybody else and exposed to a world of trouble.
This exact same process can happen on a corporate level. Take Equifax, for example, they were advised by one of their software providers that they had uncovered a vulnerability in one of their products and as such, were issuing an update to patch the vulnerability. Had Equifax completed the update there and then, we wouldn’t be talking about them today. But they didn’t. Instead, they put off the update for two whole months and in that time, cybercriminals were able to infiltrate their system and exploit the aforementioned vulnerability, resulting in approximately 150 million Americans – half the U.S. population – having their Social Security numbers stolen, along with other personally identifiable information.
Software firms take security very seriously and it’s the main reason they issue updates. They have a duty of care to not leave you exposed, you have an obligation to follow their advice and implement these updates or suffer at your own peril. It’s not just about a new user experience or a cosmetic change. Updates matter, they matter a lot, and they’re usually done with your safety in mind.
Automating updates to ensure security
Microsoft seems to have tapped into the fact that while software updates are mission critical to ensuring cybersecurity, most businesses seem to put them on the bottom of the priority list (if it makes it onto the list at all!).
As a result, last month Microsoft announced that it would be automating updates for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Online. These updates will take place twice a year, in April and October, and are intended to provide the best possible experience of the product while providing minimal disruption to businesses.
Businesses will still be in control
While automating updates is a step in the right direction, Microsoft also understands that businesses need to plan for these events and will, therefore, be providing early visibility for new updates months before their scheduled to take place.
Likewise, in order to minimise any disruptions to businesses, Microsoft has made it so any new capabilities are automatically set to ‘off' by default and can be activated and tested by system administrators in a sandbox environment. Businesses will be able to assess productivity and efficiency, as well as train staff on how to use any new capabilities with next to no disruptions while still having all the relevant security updates in place. This is truly the best of both worlds.
If you’re running older versions of Dynamics 365 you’re still supported
For those businesses that are running older versions of Dynamics 365, Microsoft is still providing support and updates, however, these will need to be scheduled manually. If this applies to you it's either time to start thinking about updating to the latest version or talking to your Dynamics support partner to ensure they’ve got you on a detailed update schedule.
Clean hands and updated software make for excellent health habits, physically and digitally. Make sure your business understands the importance of running the most up-to-date software and start thinking about how you can automate this process so it becomes second nature.
Words by Camilo Lascano Tribin
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