Why are Patches Important?

It’s no secret that updates and patches are essential for security—they fix known vulnerabilities in software, servers, and firewalls. Companies and employees don’t always patch systems right away because patching is seen as an inconvenience as updates can mean downtime.

Frequent patching, however, is critically important to help avoid much larger disruptions such as malware, ransomware, or data compromise. The very fact that a patch for a security flaw has been released can mean trouble for out-of-date products: once vulnerabilities are publicized, it’s easy for cyber attackers to locate and target unpatched systems.

Read an example of what can happen without the appropriate patches in place.

Should You Patch Right Away?                 

Nobody likes interruptions, but avoiding software updates can lead to bigger problems down the road. Your organization needs to plan on regular updates and accept that occasional downtime is necessary with this important security step. When downtime during business hours is not possible, automated solutions and managed service providers are worth considering, as updates can be scheduled for after hours; the cost of overtime could be well worth it.

To minimize user interruptions many companies define a patch schedule to routinely update their systems. There are times, however, when you should not wait to act. Certain threats are highly publicized, drawing a lot of attention. These will require an out-of-band (immediate) patch update cycle to mitigate the vulnerability due to its high risk profile. As noted above, the publicity can actually cause more attacks or attempts.

How Do You Know Patches Went Out and Worked?

Remote monitoring and management software are great ways to release and track the patching of devices. This method allows for audits to confirm that patches were successful. Remote tools should be  part of planned  Proactive Desktop Management (PDM), Proactive Server Management (PSM), and Mobile Device Management (MDM) service offerings. They focus on security and compliance ensuring your devices are up-to-date with the latest patches.

User Awareness Program

Technology and software are only half of the solution in an environment where 43% of all threats are internal non-malicious users.

This is because employees are not trained to recognize threats nor made aware of steps to be taken when they identify a possible attack. Vulnerability and attack vectors are constantly changing, requiring a continuous effort on the part of the organization to educate their user base regularly. A User Awareness Program (UAP) is the second half of the security solution.

With PDM and PSM systems in place to manage updates, employees won’t need to do much other than leave devices available during patch windows. UAPs can be cloud-based solutions which help manage expectations, provide fun monthly training material, and simulate attacks in a controlled environment to measure the effectiveness of the program. They also provide the necessary auditing and tracking to customize future training sessions.

How to improve patching for Users

To make the patch process as smooth as possible for users:

  • Keep a regular patch schedule, but communicate that some vulnerabilities will inevitably need an immediate patch.
  • Share relevant threat alerts and announcements with employees to help them understand the critical nature of updates.
  • Try to provide some notice if you anticipate downtime during an update.
  • Highlight the “why” with a message such as “Updates fix vulnerabilities in the programs we use, and proactively updating is an important part of security. We appreciate your patience during this brief outage.”
  • Include the update philosophy and any set patch windows in employee onboarding process and the Technology and Data Use Policy.

Regular patching is a necessary step and a proactive way to help keep your business secure.

If you are unsure of your risk profile, concerned about security and would like to bring in partner to manage, implement, and track these kinds of critical security pieces, contact us today!