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Security & privacy

Update Windows now! Patch fixes 17-year-old bug hiding in your PC

This month’s Patch Tuesday is here at last, and even more security flaws are being fixed this time around. For July, 123 vulnerabilities are being addressed, and 18 of them have been dubbed urgently critical to repair.

Just like usual, you’ll be able to get the patches via Windows’ update system. It’s easy to do, but you’ll want to make a backup before going too far. Tap or click here to see 5 steps to backing up your data like a pro.

But what makes this month’s Patch Tuesday different, however, is one particular vulnerability that has persisted for more than 17 years. If you’ve been a Windows user since 2003, you’ve had something wrong with your computer this whole time without ever knowing!

A 17-year bug with dire consequences

Microsoft has announced the fixes included in July’s Patch Tuesday update, and based on what we can see, it’s a doozy. This month’s update is the second-largest in Windows history, with 123 vulnerabilities addressed and 18 of them marked as critical.

RELATED: Tap or click here to see what was addressed in last month’s Patch Tuesday — the biggest ever

But one flaw, in particular, is concerning everyone. Since at least 2003, a DNS exploit has existed in Windows computers that can allow hackers to redirect the websites you visit. DNS works like the address book of the internet and helps connect the name of a website to its back-end IP address.

If DNS is ever hijacked, a hacker can trick you into visiting a fake website that can phish your data, or potentially a download link that can install malware. This particular flaw comes into play if a user fails to set up a firewall for their computer, and although most internet companies now provide this by default, a novice user could be putting themselves in harm’s way.

The flaw was initially discovered by researchers at Check Point Security, who pointed it out to Microsoft after discovering it could be exploited without any action taken by the user. In fact, if someone were to attack you in this way, you wouldn’t even be able to tell it was happening.

With how dangerous this flaw (and the others in the Patch Tuesday update) can be, as well as the fact that phishing scams are on the rise, we wouldn’t recommend waiting on this update. Even if there are glitches to be found, it’s much better for your data and privacy to be on a glitchy system than a vulnerable one.

Tap or click here to see what a previous Patch Tuesday glitch looked like.

How do I get the update to protect my system?

To install the patch, all you need to do is navigate to the Start Menu, click on the Settings gear icon, and click on Update and Security. If the patch hasn’t already been installed, you’ll see it available to download. If you don’t see an option to download anything, your computer may have already updated without you knowing. This happens if Automatic Updates are turned on.

Related: The Department of Homeland Security is urging everyone to patch this dangerous PC flaw

As we stated above, this update may be privy to some glitches. It’s unavoidable at this point with how fast and frequent these updates are. Typically, they’ll vary in how severe they are, and they’ll rarely prevent you from using your computer outright (although this has happened before).

In a nutshell, if you get this update, be prepared to hear about new glitches from us in short order. But don’t worry, we’ll show you any workarounds or fixes that can help keep your system running like normal.

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