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6 Urgent Notifications You Should Stop Avoiding Even If You’re Overwhelmed
Raise your hand if you’ve ever ignored a notification on your computer, tablet, or phone!
Raise your hand if that notification ended up being important later!
We know you get a lot of notifications, but you don’t want to miss the urgent ones. Avoid later issues by checking notifications that can affect your (or someone else’s) safety and security.
1. Updates are available
Updates can be a pain! (Especially if your phone or Apple Watch likes to update early in the morning. We’ve stopped charging our devices overnight to preserve their battery life, and we know we’re not alone.) But there are a few reasons you should immediately heed update notifications to keep your software current.
First, security. If you don’t keep your device on the latest and greatest, it’s more susceptible to hacking and other breaches. Updates often contain patches to fix security weaknesses in the last software update.
Second, speed. Usually, devices running older software tend to be slower, especially if they’ve missed more than one update. If you’re in an emergency and you haven’t updated your mobile device, you may not be able to get help quickly.
One reason you might avoid notifications? Overload. When you have 40,626 unopened emails, 12 unopened text messages, a Facebook account, a personal Insta, a secret onion ring photography Insta, Slack, game apps, and a few prolific group chats, it gets to be a lot. We suggest turning off the push notifications for some of your social media and other apps so you can focus on what’s really important.
2. New definitions are available
No, this isn’t about a constantly updating dictionary, although that would be pretty sweet. “New definitions” usually refer to new identifications of malware.¹
When your antivirus software tells you that new definitions are available, it’s letting you know that it wants to update its malware list to better protect your device. If you haven’t set your software to accept new definitions automatically, it’ll need your manual permission to proceed.
If you don’t let your antivirus update its definitions, a virus will slip through the cracks eventually. And once that virus is in, there’s no telling what could happen.
For starters, your device could be destroyed or taken over. And if that’s not enough, your passwords and other sensitive content or information could be pulled and used in malicious ways.
3. Website is unsafe
Sometimes when you get a notification saying a website is unsafe, you might think, “Sure, whatever. I’ve been on the internet since 1999, and I’m an expert at picking safe websites. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to use my credit card on this site.”
But according to SSL certificate company Sectigo, “Your computer can be attacked by simply visiting a malicious website.”
You don’t have to click anything or input any information to be exposed to viruses and data scraping. Next thing you know, your device is shutting down, and your health insurance info is for sale on the dark web. Oy.
4. Threat or suspicious activity detected
If you get a notification from your antivirus, saying “Threat or suspicious activity detected,” you’ll want to take that seriously.
Your device defense system is trying to warn you about something you’ve downloaded or opened. Follow the antivirus instructions so that you can either dismiss or delete the threat.
On the other hand, if you get a pop-up on a website or an in-app notification that says, “Threat or suspicious activity detected,” this is probably a phishing scam. Leave the site or app without clicking on anything—or even turn off your device.
If you’re getting a lot of these, don’t despair. There are a few ways to potentially prevent these pop-ups from happening again, like updating Google Chrome or using a VPN.²
Want to reduce the number of scammy pop-ups you get? Anytime you use public Wi-Fi, we strongly encourage a VPN. A virtual private network will make your connection more secure and help prevent anything from creeping on or off your device.
5. Emergency and AMBER Alerts incoming
You’ve probably gotten a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) before. Usually, your phone will buzz urgently, making these notifications difficult to ignore.
If you’ve somehow avoided that persistent buzzing, we suggest next time you pick up.
WEAs can save your life or someone else’s by alerting you to weather dangers, nearby safety threats, and child kidnappings.
Reading that one annoying message could keep you from going out in a perilous lightning storm or help you recognize an endangered child.³
You’ve probably heard the phrase, but you may not know that the US created the AMBER Alert in memory of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman.
Before an AMBER Alert can be issued, authorities must meet specific criteria, such as knowing the child is in immediate danger and possessing descriptions to release to the public.⁴
6. Not enough space or memory
If you get a notification saying your device needs more space or memory, act on it right away! Without sufficient storage, the next time your device needs to make a crucial security update, it may not be able to.
True story: one of our reviewers once bought a computer with a smaller memory than her phone. She used online storage for all her computer photos, documents, and games to create more space. Even with that precaution, the routine updates quickly outpaced the available hard storage. That reviewer replaced the computer much earlier than planned because with no storage and no updates, it was near useless.
Don’t let that happen to you! If you can’t clear space on a device by deleting content, we suggest cloud storage (like an inexpensive monthly iCloud subscription) or extra hard drives if possible.
And if those solutions don’t work, then just like our reviewer, you’ll probably have to update.
Remember, Always Check These Notifications
You can’t possibly respond at once to every notification you get, but we recommend keeping on top of these ones.
- New definitions
- Unsafe website
- Threats and suspicious activity
- Emergency and AMBER Alerts
- Space and memory
Notification overload can make these simple tasks more difficult. If you need to reduce your notifications so you can pay more attention to the important ones, pay a visit to your general and individual app notification settings.