Why do you need a strong patch management program?

abstract image of IT partner updating the network

The cyberattacks and threats continue to target outdated applications and systems ranging from Windows, Microsoft 365, Adobe Acrobat, and more. Poor patch management in businesses of all sizes leaves vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit and can be costly and detrimental. Regulated organizations including financial institutions, banks, and healthcare organizations can face hefty compliance penalties from a data leak originating from an unpatched vulnerability.

Top reasons why your business needs a strong patch management program include security, business continuity, performance, productivity, and regulatory compliance. Most important, a thorough patch management program is the first step in securing a network.

What does patch management mean?

A “patch” can be a security update or a bug fix. A company releases code or data changes to update, fix, or remedy a security flaw in a software program or application. Patch management refers to how a business monitors these releases, updates their network, and tracks the completed updates for all the patches being released by all the companies for the software the company uses. Patch management is ongoing and applies to your entire infrastructure, ensuring that everything is up-to-date and not vulnerable to known issues or exploits.

Vulnerability assessments are also an essential part of any patch management program. An internal vulnerability scan can look for any missed patches or patches that failed to apply properly.

Minimize your chance of exposure to threats and attacks.

Just as most people go to a car mechanic for regular maintenance on their cars, businesses often use a vendor or Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to do their patch management. Managed security service providers are experienced with automating patch management and monitoring patches effectively and efficiently.  Most managed security services provide automated patch management because it is less complex, less time consuming and reduces the potential for human error and omission compared to manual patch management. Managed security service providers can also run internal and external vulnerability scans to detect issues with your patching to further reduce your exposure.

If you do choose to manually apply patches, make sure you have a comprehensive list of applications to monitor for patch releases, a regular schedule for applying the patches in alignment with your business’ security policy and functionality needs, and a method to ensure updates are done in a timely manner to avoid being a victim to an attack. Remember to include reporting in your manual patch management operations, especially when you need to demonstrate compliance with regulations. Reports should show what patches were applied when to what machines.

Either way, manual or automated, acting quickly once you learn of a vulnerability is essential because after a patch for a vulnerability has been released, that’s the time when most exploits of that vulnerability occur. To minimize risk, the quicker you can patch, the better.

With the right patch management in place, you can help your business run at optimal performance and stay secure and safe.

How bad is it really?

Attackers or threats that come from poor patch management are like opportunistic thieves taking advantage of an unlocked door. IT teams and managed security services partner with businesses to help ensure attackers don’t sneak in the backdoor to steal and cause destruction.

Attacks vary in severity and can impact data integrity, operational efficiency, and brand value. One of the biggest data breaches in the history of the Internet was a result of Equifax skipping a full patch on their systems in 2017. Another attack, toward the end of 2021, was on Minecraft and exposed the most critical vulnerability in the last decade, taking about two weeks to develop and release a fix.1  According to Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Data Breach Report, there were 1,862 breaches last year, up 68% from the year prior, and exceeded 2017’s previous record of 1,506.2

With threats and attacks on the rise, you need to remain on alert 24/7 because just like a thief looking for an unlocked door or an open window on a hot night, attackers continue to adapt their techniques, are patient and wait for human error, and attack when your attention is averted.

Don’t get surprised, safeguard your data, and sleep soundly knowing you’re protected.

There may be specific features you or your industry need for data management in your cybersecurity plan. Contact our team at StrataDefense for a complimentary assessment or discussion for your specific needs.

 

Sources:

1  –  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/dec/10/software-flaw-most-critical-vulnerability-log-4-shell

2 – https://www.idtheftcenter.org/post/identity-theft-resource-center-2021-annual-data-breach-report-sets-new-record-for-number-of-compromises/

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