Patch Tuesday preview: Time for a ‘measured’ approach to updates

It’s time again: with Patch Tuesday in sight, I always recommend pausing or delaying updates, and this month is no different. But the second Tuesday of May also brings to an end support for Windows 10 1909. If you want to receive updates for Windows 10 after May 11, you’ll need to make sure you’re running Windows 10 2004 or 20H2.

So my first request on this Patch Tuesday week is that you check to see what exact version of Windows 10 you have installed, so you know you are still supported.

Typically, there is a window of time when we can safely defer or delay updates and when businesses can test patches before rolling them out. The days of worm attacks where we had to immediately patch systems have long since passed. These days, attacks are typically done using phishing lures to gain access to a system; the weakest link isn’t necessarily software, it’s us,opening Office docs or other files that harvest credentials. If you are even a slightly savvy user, give yourself time to ensure that there are no patching side effects.

(A continuing issue for some users: Microsoft still has not delivered the greatest update experience to those whose systems rely on Conexant audio drivers. As noted on the Windows Health release dashboard, those systems will be offered 2004 or 20H2 but during the upgrade process may roll back to 1909. Microsoft recommends you try the installation again. I recommend proactively removing the audio drivers, doing the upgrade with the audio drivers removed, then reinstalling the drivers.)

In terms of patching, we’ve gotten into this better state of risk because of the overall advances of Windows 10. But it’s key to stay one step ahead of attackers. Ransomware is becoming so much more common that not only are major pipeline infrastructure targets being hit, but we are seeing governments recognize the risks and establishing task forces to look into them.

Currently, Microsoft includes some of its best anti-ransomware protections with Windows 10 E5 licenses (Microsoft’s most expensive). I’m hoping some of these features will move to other, less-expensive tiers, as we all need some of these protections. Until then, the best way to protect yourself is to not blindly click on files and do not enter passwords on websites unless you are certain you know they’re safe.

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