Safeguarding the data environment is of prime importance to any enterprise. Breach of data can lead to loss of business strategies and secrets, loss of sensitive customer/client data, disruption of business, and loss of trust. The business may also have to face lawsuits. Cyber criminals try to infiltrate the enterprise network to steal data. They try to exploit vulnerabilities in the network system. The Dark Web offers exploits, and exploits-as-a-service, which allows wannabe hackers to just purchase an exploit or the service without having to build it. It is in this dangerous scenario that IT administrators must protect their enterprise network from malicious intrusions. Patch management is a way of blocking some of these attacks. The operating system vendors and application developers release bug fixes as patches. This helps protect the enterprise from exploits. Manual patching is a tough process, hence a patch management system with an effctive patch management policy is necessary to ensure prompt patch updates.
Employ an appropriate system that detects all the devices/endpoints connected to the network. Identify the different operating systems and applications installed. Configure appropriate settings to ensure that auto-update takes place regularly. Have an option to manually update too. You should run a discovery tool periodically and regularly to ensure that all endpoints get inventoried. A vulnerability in a single endpoint can compromise the whole network.
Multi Operating System Support
An enterprise may have servers running on Windows and Linux, while the endpoints may be running Windows, Linux and Mac. Your patch management system must discover and support all types of platforms.
Third-Party Application Support
As stated earlier, the patch management system must not only manage updates for the operating systems, but also for the various third-party applications that run on the various servers and endpoints. Most patch management systems focus on the updates for the operating systems. But threat actors have hacked through vulnerabilities in flash, browsers and other applications. Hence, it is imperative that the patch management system discovers and inventories all applications on all devices and ensures that auto-updates takes place regularly. Some malware can disable auto-updates. This is dangerous as the IT administrator would believe that auto-updates would ensure patch updates. Hence, auto-updates must not be relied upon.
Each operating system vendor and application vendor releases patches at a certain frequency or as hotfixes for newly discovered serious vulnerabilities. If you have a patch management policy to follow a specific pattern of updating patches at a defined time interval of every week or two weeks or once a month – you are at risk. The time gap between the period when a vendor releases a patch and when you update provides a window for zero-day exploit attacks. Define a policy to update patches with a shorter frequency – say every week.
Diligently following theses practices in patch management will help ensure cyber security, and thwart attempts by malicious threat actors.