Patching and Vulnerability Management go hand in hand in the process of protecting corporate assets and data. So what is the difference between the two, and how can you make sure that all critical systems are protected? How can we best use these processes, to maximise the security profile of corporate systems and data?
All software, applications and operating systems require regular maintenace and management to prevent hackers and cybercriminals from exploiting known weaknesses, to gain access and compromise systems security. IT evolves rapidly, new systems, code bases, technologies and integration techniques are coming onstream and changing regularly. This means that any system, no matter how well they have been built, can’t be left untouched for a significant amount of time and be expected to retain a high level of security. IT professionals need to develop, monitor and deploy security patches to each regularly to prevent cybersecurity issues from arising. So what is the difference between patching and Vulnerability Management?
Patch management processes in large organisations tends to focus on the key operating systems employed to manage critical infrastructure. Usally Windows systems are the key target for management and this extends to endpoint devices such as desktops/laptops etc. A more mature process would also target key data management, database technologies employed as well as network, gateway and other critical infrastructure components. The various desktop applications and client technologies employed should also attract attention. This could also be addressed by using a Standard Operating Environment (SOE) hardened build which is common and already free of un-needed (and often insecure) desktop technologies.
The application of patches should be undertaken regularly and depending on the maturity of the process should involve the testing of patches within a test environment to ensure that they do not adversly impact critical systems amd applications. Updates often include bug fixes that create a patch for any vulnerable part of the system, eliminating cybersecurity issues until the newest versions are available for deployment across the enterprise.
Patch management is most effective way of keeping systems free of vulnerabilities which are directly related to coding weaknesses and other problems which are found regularly in the various systems and applications currently in use.
Vulnerability management takes patch management a step further and is the ultimate way by which companies can make sure that vulnerabilities are appropriately managed. The process is divided into three key phases: discovery, prioritisation and response. Every organisation should utilise vulnerability management to increase its cybersecurity resilience.
The process begins with discovery, which involves assessing all networks, systems, applications, code and devices to search for known vulnerabilities. A process which combines industry resources and regular scanning of systems and enterprise networks is critical to a mature vulnerability management process.
Industry resources such as (cvedetails.com) offer an objective way and process for scoring the vulnerabilities and thus help determining the priority for remediation. Budgets are not endless, so a process which sets the scope and timeframe for scanning of corporate systems and assets is critical.
Set a target for scanning which is achieveable and covers the key and critical systems, applications, code etc. Sometimes using an external vendor for security testing and vulnerability scanning can provide the objectivity needed to identify areas of security weakness which has not previously been considered.
The second step, prioritisation, uses an objective standard and/or risk assessment to determine the priority for remediation of the issues found. The combination of industry resources (such as CVEdetails.com), or the expertise of an external vendor can often help to prioritise effort to get ‘best bang for bucks’
There may be a way of effecting immediate resolution or employing compensating controls, which had not previously been considered. The prioritisation involves the order of addressing any vulnerabilities within company systems and networks. This depends on the severity of the issue, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Sometimes the cybersecurity risk that issues pose can be relatively low, meaning that it can be acceptable to keep it unpatched for some time. However, it is essential to address high-risk vulnerabilities as quickly and effectively as possible to prevent their exploitation.
The third step is response, or taking action to eliminate the issues identified. The type and nature of the vulnerability, will determine what the most appropriate and ideal response is to resolving it.
Vulnerability management is the evolution or maturity stage, of systems management and cyber responsiveness. Vulnerability management actively seeks out issues and responds to them rather than just waiting for a patch to apply based on vendor discovery and remediation timeframes.
Ensuring that systems are adequately hardened and appropriately configured prior to production deployment goes a long way to ensuring adequate protection.
Vulnerability management takes a more holistic approach to ensuring the ongoing Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability and Privacy of systems and data. Depending on the nature of the issue the best response might be patching, configuration, filtering, code changes, or employing third party cloud technologies and software to protect systems.
Canda can support you in your patch and vulnerability management with expert advice and practical processes to help protect from cyber attack. If you would like to learn more, please get in touch with us today, and we will be happy to help your business out by maximising cybersecurity!