Many data breaches occur as a result of a business failing to install a recommended patch. If an organization had only taken the steps to update their software or apply the patches that had been made available, problems could have been avoided. What is missing that prevents follow-through on these fundamental IT tasks? There is a substantial gap between when a patch is available and when that patch is applied, which is a common enough problem that even Equifax suffered the consequences.
Patching is a losing battle.
The process of installing patches (also referred to as software updates) may seem achievable for smaller businesses with only a few programs, but patch management is very time-consuming for smaller and larger organizations alike – and needed patching is often procrastinated. The very term “patch” trivializes the level of difficulty that IT departments endure when installing these security updates, as if the undertaking was as simple as sewing a patch onto torn jeans. With various programs and software utilities to manage within a single organization, it is nearly impossible to monitor, discover, and patch for every vulnerability.
Patch programs are rarely prioritized.
All levels of staff within an organization must strike a careful balance between existing risk versus the costs of addressing that risk. However, there is reluctance, despite IT professionals stressing the importance of staying up to date with patches. Installing patches is often manual processes that require critical systems to be offline. This can slow down coordinating networks and halt work that needs to be done. This is frustrating to employees who are trying to complete projects and to management staff who are monitoring deadlines. Missed deadlines and slow productivity are more easily perceived as a threat to the business than is the looming risk of a breach. Patches are commonly delayed for a more “convenient” moment that rarely occurs.
What is the solution?
Given the pushback or lack of diligence in terms of installing security updates, patches are not a viable strategy for a robust cybersecurity policy. An infrastructure that mitigates must stem from more than quick fixes to an overall problem in your security network. Patches rely on manual processes and humans are inefficient. New automation technologies are what will make identifying vulnerabilities and applying patches more effective strategies, but such tools must be integrated into systems. It’s not a simple software that can be installed, but instead an entire shift in how digital programs are run and a proactive culture of action to protect data.
Switching to a comprehensive managed security protocol is the most effective way to manage vulnerabilities. Many breaches are the result of human error, and patch programs are not excluded. Even a high-functioning vulnerability management system, which prioritizes patches based on level of risk, cannot address when a patch might suddenly move from a low priority to one that is higher. They can only alert the proper staff and hope that a patch can be applied in time with minimal inconvenience. Remaining cybersecure demands an aggressively proactive approach, and the practice of installing security patches largely amounts to playing a game of cat and mouse. If organizations are constantly on the run from the next attack, then the realization of a data breach becomes a matter of if, not when.
The ITeam understands the cybersecurity issues facing Canada businesses. We are committed to helping Calgary- and Alberta-based businesses develop proactive, cost-effective IT strategies that minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Contact us to learn more.