Patch and vulnerability management is an essential component of an effective cybersecurity program. Patch and vulnerability management provides a proactive approach to managing network security and reducing exposure to threats from unauthorized access and malicious activity.
Almost every device in every network includes software and hardware that will require patches to address issues as they arise between updates. Cyber criminals are always looking for weaknesses, and most successful cyber attacks exploit well-known vulnerabilities, for which patches have already been released. Patches can protect your network and data from ever-evolving cyber threats; however, they only work if you have a program in place to discover, analyze, apply, test, and implement them.
Vulnerability management is the proactive identification and mitigation or prevention of weaknesses in your systems that can be exploited. Vulnerability management involves scanning systems to check for vulnerabilities and finding workarounds, such as taking vulnerable systems offline, until a patch is available to fix the vulnerability. Vulnerability management also includes reviewing information provided by vendor partners when they discover vulnerabilities. These can also be mitigated by configuration changes or workarounds.
Patch and Vulnerability Management—Working Hand in Hand
Patch management by itself isn’t effective without vulnerability management and vice versa. Vulnerabilities must be discovered before a patch can be developed and released, and vulnerabilities are often fixed by applying a patch. The proactive step of vulnerability management works in harmony with the reactive step of patch management to help secure your systems and keep your data safe.
Eliminating Vulnerabilities is a Continuous Battle
Some experts believe that 80% of cybersecurity issues can be mitigated by having a consistent patch and vulnerability management program. Not just a schedule for periodically applying updates to critical information systems, but a systematic program for evaluating the significance of reported vulnerabilities, identifying the risks they pose, and taking steps to safeguard your systems against those risks. A patch and vulnerability management program should also be able to generate reports or logs that make it easy to confirm which systems have been successfully patched.
With cybercrime on the rise and compliance regulations tightening, patch and vulnerability management is NOT a do it once and you are done activity. Your technology infrastructure, applications and data are continually being surveyed by people or tools to identify and exploit security vulnerabilities. New vulnerabilities are uncovered on almost a daily basis. Hundreds of patches are released every month, making it a challenge to keep track of which patches need to be installed, which can be delayed and installed at a later time, and the proper order for installing them.
Patch and Vulnerability Management Phases
There are several stages/phases involved in the patch and vulnerability management processes.
Monitor Updates: Keeping current with hotfixes and updates. Monitor product vendor websites and mailing lists, security advisory sites, or subscribe to a vulnerability alert service for information on patches, updates or configuration recommendations that remediate flaws for each of the systems supported by your organization.
Analyze Logs: Scrutinize logs for anomalies and other system information that could identify problems or vulnerabilities. This can be completed automatically with a Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) tool or manually by forensics analysts.
Verify Vulnerabilities: Verify that the vulnerability can be exploited or used maliciously in some way on a system.
Mitigate Vulnerabilities: Mitigate vulnerabilities until a patch is released by adjusting a configuration or blocking information from another protection mechanism.
Acquire, Test, and Apply Patches: Patching a system’s vulnerabilities may range from modifying a configuration setting to requiring the installation of a completely new version of the software. Read all the relevant documentation provided by vendors and follow their instructions.
Confirm Protection: Validate that the applied patch or protections are in place and functioning properly.
Patch and Vulnerability Management from Cerium
Stopping all attack activity is virtually impossible; however, implementing a robust patch and vulnerability management program can increase an organization’s situational awareness and minimize cybersecurity incidents. Along with penetration testing and configuration management, patch and vulnerability management provides a holistic approach that ensures protections are in place to minimize exposure.
Patch and vulnerability management involves a lot of different pieces and different decisions to be made, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. If you have any questions about patch and vulnerability management, on how to implement an effective program, or if you have other concerns about your organization’s security, contact Cerium Networks to get simple and helpful answers.