The importance of patching is often forgotten about, with IT teams finding the time to keep user, network and security devices up to date often impossible!
The overall security of an infrastructure should be top priority, and one of the most effective preventive measures against potential threats is patching. Patching is the process of repairing system vulnerabilities which have been discovered applying to operating systems, servers, desktops, software applications, firewalls, mobile devices, the list goes on!
Unpatched systems are an easy target; with new vulnerabilities being discovered constantly, it is common for cyber criminals to exploit, target and gain entry to networks. We only have to look at the fallout from the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks to understand how effective using vulnerabilities on unpatched systems can be. A report from the Online Trust Alliance stated:
There were over 160,000 security incidents impacting businesses in 2017 – almost double the amount reported in 2016!
This is due to cyber criminals becoming more tech savvy in exploiting vulnerbilities, and perhaps businesses becoming too busy to focus on their network security.
Of course, proactively preventing such vulnerabilities causing problems is preferred to reactively attempting to mop up after a security incident. This is where patch management comes into play.
Manually checking for and applying updates is a mammoth task; the sheer number of available updates can be overwhelming especially for some SMB’s who may not have their own onsite technical team. To remove this time consuming job, patch management will automatically control the update process. This can also include devices in remote locations, especially helpful for remote workers that use company phones or laptops. Those devices and applications that are easy to forget about can also be included, removing any surprises later on.
Patch management enables the scheduling of a time and date for patches to be deployed, which is especially useful for devices located across different time zones. Setting updates to install out of hours or outside times of high employee productivity minimises the amount of business disruption faced whilst still maintaining the level of security needed.
Removing the need for IT teams to analyse updates, patch management also helps to free up time allowing other productive tasks to be looked at, or dedicate more time to looking after existing systems.
Effective Patch Management
What does an effective patch management programme look like? The methods used will obviously vary for each company; there’s no ‘one size fits all’ configuration as each need is different. Typically, an automated patch management system is implemented. This requires the install of an agent which allows the control and management of patches from a web-based interface. Companies with a smaller network may wish to outsource this management to perform the deployments from a remote location.
So, you have the programme in place. A less obvious part of the whole management is a policy. This would dictate how often patches are performed, how quickly they need to be scheduled (especially critical updates) and a plan for rollbacks.
In summary, in order to keep your infrastructure safe and secure, regularly applying patches to all software should be prioritised. Cyber security needs to be taken seriously by all to stay ahead of the criminals.
Netshield can assist with the automation and management of the patch process, from your entire infrastructure to just a select few network devices. If you’d like further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.