The Unattended Upgrades feature of Ubuntu (and other Debian-based distros) ensures that important security patches for installed packages are automatically downloaded and installed without needing any manual intervention from an end-user (hence the word unattended).
A common misconception about this feature, is that when enabled, it will cause your device to regularly automatically restart. This is not true unless you specifically opt-in to that behavior by going through the following steps:
- Opening the
- Explicitly setting
- Installing the optional
For more information, please read Ubuntu’s Documentation.
Like most things on Linux, there are strong debates for and against enabling Ubuntu’s unattended upgrades package.
The primary argument against a solution like
unattended-upgrades is that
by automatically upgrading packages on a Linux device, one day, a less stable
package may install and cause stability or user-experience issues.
While this argument is technically valid, the fact remains
that without this package installed and enabled, it’s more far more likely that
a Linux device will host software with severe and remotely exploitable security
vulnerabilities. This is especially true for end-user devices running Linux.
Further bolstering the argument for turning it on, Canonical (the creators of Ubuntu)
has opted to pre-install the
unattended-upgrades package and enable it across
the Ubuntu operating system. We highly recommend users keep this setting on.
By default, Ubuntu Desktop installations include an app called Software & Updates
(internally referred to as
update-manager). This program is capable of
modifying the requisite files on your device to ensure Unattended Upgrades
are correctly enabled.
To use it, simply follow these steps.
Launch the Software & Updates app (you can also run
update-managerfrom the terminal).
Once opened, select the Updates tab.
Ensure the When there are security updates option is set to Download and install automatically. Complete any authentication prompts if they are displayed.
Verify the package is installed with
sudo apt-get install unattended-upgrades -y
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -plow unattended-upgradeswhich will then display the following interactive prompt:
Select yes. Once completed, the app will create the file
/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgradeswith the correct settings. There may be an existing/conflicting installation screen that looks like the screenshot below. If you see that screen, simply replace the file with the new version to get the default behavior.
Osquery (an open-source tool for querying the state of the OS) is capable of
reading the contents of specific configuration files like
/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades using an integration with the Augeas
configuration parsing project.
Osquery uses SQL to query the system’s current state. Assuming you have the correct lense installed, you can use Osquery SQL you can use the following query to get the determine if Unattended upgrades is configured correctly.
SELECT MAX(CASE WHEN label='Update-Package-Lists' THEN value END) as update_package_list, MAX(CASE WHEN label='Unattended-Upgrade' THEN value END) as unattended_upgrade, FROM augeas WHERE path = '/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades'
This problem cannot be remediated through traditional automation with tools like an MDM. You need to be able to reach out to users who have devices that fail this check, and then give them precise instructions on how to resolve the problem.
Kolide's Slack app does exactly that. After enrolling devices, Kolide will automatically determine the primary user, introduce itself, and then reach out via Slack when a user's device experiences this problem. From there, it provides step-by-step instructions on how to fix it and gives them tools to verify they did it correctly.
One of the easiest and best ways to protect your computer, is by keeping current with security software updates. The unattended-upgrades package helps by automatically keeping your computer up to date with the latest security updates.
unattended-upgrades package is not configured correctly. Please
use your preferred text editor and open
Once opened, ensure the following values are present and both are set to
Alternately, you can do this via
unattended-upgrades and select
If you're not comfortable with or do not fully understand these instructions, please reach out to your system administrator or IT Help Desk for assistance.