Why should you update your web browser?

by Elizabeth Jenike, IT Services

Qualtrics users received a notification last week that they should update their web browsers to the latest version in order to resolve security concerns around an outdated version of Transport Layer Security (TLS), a common internet encryption protocol. Essentially, TLS versions 1.0 and 1.1 are no longer considered secure, prompting web content providers to adjust how your browser connects to their sites. TLS version 1.2 is now the accepted protocol.

To reflect this change in accepted protocol, Qualtrics asked users to update their web browsers (Safari, Chome, Firefox, etc.) to the latest versions, which support TLS 1.2.

student wearing a gray Myaamia t-shirt using a laptop

A bit of background on all those tech terms: TLS or SSL provides network security. By encrypting the data communicated along a network, the protocol can keep hackers from reading or modifying that data and thus dramatically cuts the possibility of cyberattacks. However, there are several known vulnerabilities in the earlier versions of TLS, which is why many web content providers have been moving their networks to support TLS 1.2—and why support for the earlier versions was deprecated earlier this year.

The change in accepted protocol is important information for more than just Qualtrics users, however. It’s a reminder that internet security depends on all of us to stay vigilant.

Keep web browsers up to date

In general, it’s a good idea to make sure all software, firmware, and web tools you use are up to date. Companies release security patches and update settings to reflect current standards, sometimes even in response to discovered security flaws, as was the case with the Spectre and Meltdown attacks that happened in early 2018.

Another reason you’ll want to make sure your web browser and Flash plugin are up to date: Duo, of course. When authenticating against Duo Security (which will be mandatory starting December 19), if your browser or Flash plugin is out of date, Duo will notify you that you need to update it.

Homework: Check your own browser

Here are a couple tools you can use to check to make sure that your web browser is secure and up to date:

Note: These tools may throw false negatives from on-campus machines due to an incompatibility between them and our network, so these links are really for checking personal machines at home. Not to worry: If you are using a Miami-owned computer, web browsers are automatically updated.

Thanks for doing your part to keep Miami cyber-secure!