Published on December 6th, 2018 | by Sunit Nandi0
Best Practices for Patch Management
Application vulnerabilities are a normal thing in the world of software design. However, the threat lies in the details of who discovers the vulnerabilities first. While security professionals will work overtime to patch vulnerabilities in your application as soon as possible, it will result in a security breach in case the cyber criminals happen to stumble on the vulnerabilities first.
A good example of a data breach that arose from an unknown vulnerability would be the Equifax breach – it ended with the personal information of 143 million people exposed. If you don’t want your business to be in the same situation, then focusing on patch management is vital. Optimal patch management cannot be achieved by only investing in the latest security tools in your industry. It requires a committed IT team as well as effective policies for it to be successful.
Here are some hacks to help you excel in patch management:
Create a Lab Environment
Deploying a patch without previously knowing how your application will react to it is simply a recipe for failure. In case the patch isn’t effective enough in eliminating vulnerabilities, you will be left with a dysfunctional app along with the burden of having to deal with downtimes. Instead, create a lab environment that mirrors your production environment for testing patches.
By using a log management tool, you can identify whether the patches are effective or whether there are any tweaks that ought to be made. The tool can also help to gauge whether the patch has resulted in the malfunctioning of the application or not. Once the patch is fixed, deploy it onto the production environment in phases while assessing the performance of every patch.
One common mistake that most companies make is to give end users excessive privileges and unnecessary access. When patches are released, they expose the company to challenges in that the points from which an attack can come are diverse. For instance, allowing a user to access sensitive parts of your production environment using their malware-infested devices can easily damage your IT assets through loopholes in the current patch.
Instead, IT professionals should offer users access to only necessary information. Simply put, users should only be allowed to access information that will allow them to play their role in the organization and nothing more.
Lacking a change management policy is an ingredient for patch management failure. You will spend more time putting off fires that arose from previously encountered vulnerabilities. On the other hand, IT resources and time will be wasted while catering to these unexpected issues.
For an effective patch management process, you need to exercise change management at every step of vulnerability patching. Document every stage, from the testing to the deployment stage. In case another issue arises from a recent patch, following the document trail will help reduce the number of downtimes that you will face.
Patches should not be applied with the goal to stop arising issues but to eliminate the root cause. If you only apply patches to make the resulting issues of an application problem go away without catering to the root cause, the chances are that the root cause of the problem will continue to harm your application undetected. Using the “5 whys” method will help your IT team unearth the root cause in good time.
Start by asking yourself why the vulnerability is there. Once you find an answer, focus on whether the problem you unearthed was as a result of another underlying problem. In some cases, you might not even get to asking ‘why’ five times before you can identify the root cause.
Without effective patch management policies, investing in the best tools will prove to be futile. Your whole IT team needs to be on the same page for optimal security to be achieved. Consider the tips above to make your patch management efforts worthwhile.