By Simeon Tassev, MD and QSA at Galix
Patches are useful tools, ensuring that updates can be pushed out, vulnerabilities addressed and recommended configuration changes made across an organisation. Patches are typically a retrospective development to address an identified problem. They can also be a ‘workaround’ to ensure applications continue to function when the operating system they rely on is no longer being supported.
Often, patches are a compensating control, a way of mitigating risk without actually fixing the underlying problem, but addressing the risk. However, this does not mean patches themselves are the problem or that they have no place in a digital world. On the contrary, they are extremely useful when deployed in the right scenario.
All businesses must accept some level of risk, and patches are a common way of mitigating it to acceptable levels. However, it is absolutely essential to understand the risks first and foremost, so that the most appropriate decisions can be made. This is why a cybersecurity strategy is key.
To contextualise: during 2020, digitalisation accelerated and work from home became a far more common scenario. Businesses are no longer able to maintain their technology in a contained environment, and connecting vulnerable systems introduces risk. As a result, vulnerability management has evolved beyond patching and scanning. Businesses today need to understand their vulnerabilities on a whole new plane in order to determine the level of actual risk and therefore the most appropriate action to take.
Organisations cannot simply open up their perimeters and hope for the best. Cybersecurity needs to be strategically linked to the business and based on an understanding of how any decision will affect the business, its processes and its users. Any security decisions will have an impact on the business – for example, a security system may address a risk, but may degrade the user experience.
There is a sign
Part of the planificant difference between a patch work approach and having a plan. While patches may indeed be an important part of a plan, businesses need a long-term strategy with controls and systems interlinked to protect all components. The key is to understand the risk and the business, and to develop a strategy around both of those, with a proper vulnerability and patch management strategy and programme in place. It is also important to test your strategy and measure the success of the plan to ensure it works.
Engaging with a specialist cybersecurity partner will help businesses ensure their strategy is sound and that plans are executed effectively to ensure vulnerabilities are managed and risks mitigated to an acceptable level.