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A right to software updates - what are the benefits?

Installing software updates as soon as they are released is one of the most important rules of IT security. Those who carefully follow our blog have read this here many times. But the rule is not always easy to apply, especially when it comes to older devices. PCs and smartphones, even if they are still fully functional, can at some point no longer receive updates and force their security-conscious owner to buy a new device. When it comes to IoT devices, too few users think about updates, as the functions of the device are probably the main focus for many. In this way, these devices can easily become the gateway for hackers and other cyber criminals.

The EU Commission and the Federal Ministry of Justice see the user at a disadvantage and therefore advocate a “right to software updates”. The Federal Ministry of Justice has presented a draft that I would like to take a closer look at together with you, because the law should come into force in a year.

I share the concern about the great danger posed by obsolete equipment. It's real, and the more connected devices we use, the greater the risk. A law that says that all products that are sold within Germany guarantee software updates for a defined period of time makes sense in terms of consumer protection and is a step in the right direction.

So a good thing? Well, there is one point in the draft law that is currently being discussed controversially: the distributor or seller of the device should be responsible for the software updates.

First of all, I thought about what exactly falls under “software”, because that is a very general term. Video games are also included, for example. In this case it would mean that the platform “Steam” is responsible for the updates of every game that they offer. Or Microsoft for its “Xbox Games Store” where you can buy games. You can still imagine that here.

But what about our smartphones? Yes, that's hardware, but it's only a building block when we don't have software. That means Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store would be responsible for software updates for the millions of apps they offer. I cannot imagine that this is workable.

Selling smartphones would also be very complicated because it involves a mixture of hardware and software. You have to be aware that software is embedded in so many technical products these days.

If I z. For example, if you buy a car, is the dealer responsible for the updates that BMW and Mercedes deliver? Common sense would assume that the manufacturer of the car is responsible for updating the software. The same would apply to any IoT device, for example. How can retailers like Media Markt or Saturn be responsible for updating all of the smart TVs they sell? It seems fairer and more practicable to me if the manufacturer of the device takes on this responsibility.

If you have a household appliance such as For example, when buying a washing machine, the law requires the seller to offer a guarantee for a certain period of time. Not only that, he also has to guarantee that it can be repaired for a few years (availability of spare parts, etc.). Otherwise, he will not be able to sell the product.

Well, it has to be the same with software updates. A period of time would make sense that guarantees that devices are supported by the manufacturer during this time by at least providing security updates. Holding resellers here as primary responsibility doesn't make sense from my point of view. The law should be formulated in such a way that retailers and consumers can require the manufacturer to guarantee updates. Traders could then require the manufacturer to provide this type of service in order to sell their goods.

Laws and regulations are important, but they are not a panacea. Badly worded regulation can end up doing more damage than what should be fixed. I hope that this draft law will be improved in the interests of consumers and that the manufacturers will be held accountable.

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Photo: Bruce Mars, Unsplash