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Want to reduce your cybersecurity risks? Ensure you have a well defined patching strategy!

For many, patching is an optional activity that takes time and ressources away, but did you know that the majority of breaches can be traced back to a faulty patching strategy? Patching should be taken seriously by anybody trying to improve the cybersecurity of their enterprise. Why? Because unpatched systems and devices are often the backdoor attackers use to penetrate your network and get to your most precious information. In other words, an unpatched system is the weakest link in your network! This means that your cybersecurity team must take action to ensure that patches are deployed as quickly as possible without affecting your day to day operations.

Before jumping on the how you can improve your patching program, let’s go over the main reasons why companies are not where they would like to be with their patching strategies:

Concern of business continuity: Many businesses ignore patches because they are afraid that the patch may “break” the application or make it incompatible with other systems they use. One thing your team can do however, is to setup a test environment where new patches can be tested and if the testing is successful, roll the patch over to environments where the impact of a problem related to the patch would be minimal. This can give your team the confidence it needs to then roll the patch to the rest of the organization. In other cases, a device might have to be taken offline for the patch to be applied. If you are facing this scenario, you should ask yourself if the cost of a breach will outweigh the cost of going offline and take a decision based on your analysis.

Forgetfulness: Your system administrators might already be overloaded with work ensuring your network’s safety and verifying that all your systems and devices are up and running. The lack of proper tools and processes might be a reason why patching is often forgotten or delayed. To help this issue, providing the right tools to your analysts is the place to begin for a consistent and efficient patching program. Being able to know what devices are connected to your network is a must in order to have an efficient patching system. A network monitoring tool like blësk, can help your team with asset discovery and also keep track of all the devices and systems running in your network.

Belief that cyber attacks only happen to others: Many times, businesses think that cyberattacks only happen to others, but as a cybersecurity expert, you know this is far from the truth. Educating your staff about the impacts of not having a proper patching strategy is a good way to start this conversation.

Now that the main roadblocks to a good patching strategy have been listed, it is imperative to discuss other ways that can improve your patching program.

First, your company must have a well documented Vulnerability and Patch Management policy which will provide your business with a roadmap on how to address this problems when they arise. You should also make sure that people responsible for patching have the power to implement them. This will help your company save hours, days or even weeks, which in the cybersecurity world can be the difference between avoiding or having a breach.

Second, your team must have a way to rank the patches by importance so when multiple patches are required, they can prioritize their deployment. Does your team have a way to differentiate between what requires their immediate attention and what can wait for the next release? You should map the devices and systems by how critical they are to your business and where they reside. Start by asking yourself, which systems hold the most critical information? Are there any other devices connected to them? A network mapping application can make this task a breeze so make sure you consider one if you don’t already have one. Remember, an unpatched application is a backdoor that attackers can use to get to your most precious information so make sure you patch the most important applications first.

It is clear that patching has its place in any well designed security strategy and not patching an application due to fear of potential issues should not be an excuse to leave your guard down!

If you want to find out more about how blësk Network Monitoring can help you improve your patching strategy and enhance your network security, reach out to the blësk team for a free trial or personalized demo today!