The importance of patch testing

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The importance of patch testing

What Is Patch Testing   

No matter the device, regular updates need to be made to help ensure protection against cyber security threats. This extends to installed apps and softwares.  

This is called patching.  

Every software has vulnerabilities that are at risk of being exploited by cyber criminals. These vulnerabilities or ‘holes’ may either be a result of design flaws in the software or complications due to the high amount of code procession our devices carry out. The key to cyber security is prevention rather than determining an ongoing attack and countering it. An essential practice that befalls into this is the implementation of regular patch testing, or in other words, regularly made updates.   

The Importance of Patch Testing 

Routinely made patch tests are essential for efficient cybersecurity practices. When a new patch is released, an attacker will be able to determine an underlying vulnerability that needs to be fixed, for which they will target using a malware. It is important to reduce this available time frame as much as possible.  

If the attacker manages to successfully infiltrate a system due to the target not patching the vulnerability in a time, the risk of data breach increases to a high level.  

A survey released by Ponemon Institute highlighted:  

  • That almost 60% of breaches experienced by organisations were due to unpatched vulnerabilities. 
  • That 62% of the breached organisations were unaware of the exploitable gaps prior to the breach.  
  • That 52% of the responders stated that their organisations were disadvantaged regarding response time due to their organisation’s use of manual process.  
  • That the organisations who avoided being compromised reported that their ability to detect and respond to patch vulnerabilities were 41% higher than the organisations that were breeched.  

An example of ineffective patch testing which resulted in a major breach was the 2017 Equifax data breach. The breach was caused by a failure to patch a recognised vulnerability in Apache Struts which resulted in the data of approximately 143 million US customers being breached. The 2-month delay to patch the vulnerability enabled hackers to exploit the detected compromises just days after the patch was released. This demonstrated just how important it is to carry out regular patches to decrease the risk of organisations being endangered to cybersecurity threats.  

Why Don’t Companies Regularly Patch Test?   

Regular patch tests are not completed within companies for a number of reasons: 

  • In a company where professional IT staff is lacking, it can seem like a daunting task for employees with different skill sets to complete. 
  • Overworked IT staff due to an undermanned team may result in patch rollouts being overlooked as the IT staff may be focused on issues, they perceive are more important.  
  • Some updates can affect the stability or operability of the software which in turn will affect the performance rate of employees, discouraging the IT staff to deal with the complications that may arise from the updates. 
  • Some systems require a specific version of the updated application, causing a delay for patch roll outs to be implemented.   
  • Lack of centralised configuration and patching methods. Patching is easily completed for more maintainable softwares such as Microsoft however, for third party applications such as web plug ins, it is more difficult.  

Enforcing an Effective Patch Management Strategy 

Understand the time frame required in which patching must be completed. 

Patching needs to be completed as soon as the new updates are available to reduce the time frame that attackers can exploit to seek vulnerabilities in the software.   

Patch testing. 

Patch testing is without a doubt essential for spotting vulnerabilities and fixing them. However, as some patches may affect the functionality of the software, it is important to patch test on a mirrored software of the organisation’s software. This will enable the detection and correction of underlying vulnerabilities without hindering the functionality of the original software.  

Collaboration between other organisations and your clients. 

Clients and other organisations associated with your business will need to be notified of potential issues that may arise from delayed patching or from the patch rollout itself. Plans that will be executed in the event of an issue will need to be communicated with the clients also.  

If a critical patch needs to be carried out within a given time frame, organisations will consider this as a pre-approved emergency change and adjust with a procedure designed to facilitate the rate of the new patch roll out. 

Automated patch rollout  

Although the manual option for patching is opted for by smaller organisations, automation is a better approach. Automation will ensure that patching is completed and applied as soon as possible, reducing the workload on IT staff who can instead concentrate on issues that may arise from the patch rollout and other software issues.   

How Can Securiwiser Help?  

As businesses tend to be busy with many different issues related to their clients, the importance of maintaining a regularly updated software tends to be overlooked. 

By joining Securiwiser, we can provide our clients with daily scans to alert businesses and independent users of underlying compromises and provide advise on how to handle arising issues in the most cost effective and time saving manner.

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