The Importance of Patch Management

October 24, 2018  |  Maddie Davis

importance of patch management

With each passing year, our world becomes more and more digital. Our social interactions and personal data as well as many of our jobs are based primarily on the internet. Although this shift has come with great benefits, it’s also opened us up to a heightened threat of cyber terrorism. 2017 saw some of the most devastating high-profile attacks in history, opening the eyes of business of all sizes to the importance of stronger security. With no end to cybercrime in sight, the best defense is to be better prepared. There are various practices that can be applied to achieve this, and implementing a patch management system is one of them.

In its most basic sense, patching is the process of repairing IT system vulnerabilities that are discovered after the infrastructure components have been released on the market. These patches can apply to a variety of system components, including operating systems, servers, routers, desktops, emails, client info, office suites, mobile devices, firewalls and more. Depending on a company’s information system design, the method of patch management may differ slightly.

Failure to follow adequate patch management procedures greatly increases the risk of falling victim to a devastating attack. In the second quarter of 2017, we saw a global ransomware hack the systems of over 150 countries and hundreds of organizations all as a result of poor patch management. These unattended vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure open companies up to numerous security challenges, the top five being:

  1. Absence of proper coordination of security measures taken by the operations department and the IT department.
  2. Inability to keep up with regulatory standards.
  3. Failure to develop an automated security channel.
  4. Inability to protect systems from malware, DDoS attacks and hacktivism.
  5. Failure to upgrade the existing software and applications to improve the system security.

Outsourced patch management

For many companies, the reason behind their failure to properly patch vulnerabilities is the simple fact that it’s difficult. The process is time-consuming and, depending on the size of a company, there could be numerous vulnerabilities opening simultaneously. Outsourcing patch management to a more qualified company can relieve IT teams of that immense burden and prevent potentially fatal neglect. Additionally, outsourced IT companies have the advantage of economies of scale and can spend the necessary time required for testing updates before updating client systems.

Automated patch management

Automation is a trending feature in technology this year, including patch management. With this method, a cloud-based automation system is able to regularly scan and apply patches to software and systems of any kind regardless of location. This reduces the need for ongoing management of the patching system itself, meaning even the most limited IT teams can stay up-to-date with security. Furthermore, as automation allows for patches to be applied 24/7, the downloading and installation processes won't disrupt a work day, and the potential for human error while installing patches is removed.

Whichever route you choose, the importance of the matter stays the same. While hackers have made it clear they don’t discriminate against company size or industry, preventive measures are necessary for everyone. With a strong patch management system in place, the occurrence of a vulnerability can be immediately rectified by way of consistent monitoring of the system and a patch released at the right time.

This quick action plan can make all the difference in protecting yourself from a “Zero Day Attack,” which is an exploit that occurs before a patch is available. Though it may sound like an unlikely occurrence, 85 percent of exploits have had a patch available for more than one year and 74 percent of organizations take 3 months to apply a patch, according to industry leader Mark Hurd. The risk of not recognizing and reporting a vulnerability in time is too great a risk to take.

With the imminent risk of cyber-attacks, it’s critical to assemble a plan against the potential vulnerabilities that put your information at risk, particularly with SMBs. Smaller organizations have become increasingly targeted for their tendency to discover security breaches late and because of their generally limited cybersecurity resources. In fact, Small Business Trends reports that the percentage of cyber-attacks targeting small organizations rose from 15 to 43 percent of total attacks between 2011 and 2015.

Both automation and outsourcing serve as solid solutions to key concerns companies have about the sheer number of patches required and the manpower needed to support them. Regardless of size or speciality, new technologies are making patch management implementation more cost-effective and simpler for everyone. Make the decision to prevent your potential downfall and organize your patch management plan today.

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