Staff report

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — How many times a week do you get a notification that a new update is available for a computer, mobile device or app you use?

Updates are a constant part of our technology driven lives, with new versions constantly adding new features, fixing issues and improving security.

“Software is out-of-date as soon as the next generation is released by the developing company. Windows 10 replaced Windows 8.1, Vista and the others,” said Richard Tyner, instructor and lab coordinator at Winthrop University.

“Once a new release comes out, whether it’s Windows or another software, then the new generation is the primary and anything before that is secondary, or basically obsolete because functionality is lost.”

Tyner said this could lead to problems for those who use outdated technology, whether out of choice or necessity, because they may find themselves left behind as technology moves forward at a rapid pace.

As updated software is released, some companies, such as Microsoft and Adobe, are rolling back support for their older versions and users likely won’t benefit from the latest security and features.

Even the U.S. military has had trouble upgrading their computers from legacy versions of Windows, despite a push to move all of their systems to Windows 10. However, many of their core systems still run on Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft, as of 2014.

One risk is cyber security, Tyner said, because hackers can use outdated software for malicious intent.

For example, a hacker can use a backdoor through unsupported software to obtain information about its user. While those backdoors are quickly closed to prevent exploitation in most up-to-date versions, they often remain open in unsupported software.

Additionally, outdated software may lack necessary functions that are present in newer versions, but Tyner said users can protect themselves.

“I got three words for that: save, save, save; either to a cloud or to an external drive of some sort. Keep your data away from your PC,” he said.

According to Tyner, keeping an external backup helps if you get hacked, as you can restore any damaged files or figure out what the hacker changed.

Korey Easterby, a chemistry student at Winthrop, said he hasn’t had any issues with outdated software.

“Anyone can do more. Right now, I think I’m doing enough for now, but as times move on, security breaches can be more intrusive, and I could definitely start looking at some sort of encryption software to keep safe,” said Easterby.

“I know people still use Microsoft Office from like 2013 and it works fine. I would say probably two or three years before you should start looking at moving up to the next version.”

However, this sentiment, which is shared by many, is just one example of the growing concern among experts for cyber security.

So next time an update notification pops up on your device, don’t dismiss it immediately, because experts say you and your data will be safer if you stay up to date.

* Max Ferney, Gabrielle Gaddist-Turner, David Gjertsen and Mason Spitz contributed to this report.