What are security holes?
Applying patches to operating systems is pivotal to network security. A software vulnerability is typically a security hole discovered in an operating system or software program, which hackers target with a specific code clothed as malware. In the interest of taking countermeasures to these breaches, the following explores how to patch security holes.
Conduct a risk assessment
There are a host of advantages anchored to assessing a network for security vulnerabilities. A risk assessment allows companies to gauge the severity of network vulnerabilities, the probability of a rival exploiting a network vulnerability and the risks such vulnerabilities pose to an operating system if not patched swiftly.
Upon conducting a risk assessment, it is important to consider whether assets have been impacted previously, which can increase the risk of vulnerabilities. If a patch is rolled out that does not align with a vendor’s typical patch release timeline, this usually indicates a security vulnerability is being taken advantage of. Exploits associated with security vulnerabilities that are workable or automated can also increase the risk of cyber intrusion.
Once an organization has a better understanding of their network, they can re-architect it to improve security and future patch roll outs. For example, upon discovering a company’s financial databases are being distributed across a network, the organization can leverage asset management data to transfer them into a protected, subnetwork. This allows patches deployed for the system to know where and which vulnerabilities should take priority.
How to apply patches
After a vendor assesses the severity of a security vulnerability, a patch ought to be released in a timespan proportional to the risk threatening the system. This allows resources to be appropriately allocated in a way in which the most significant threat is dealt with first.
Upon applying a patch, companies are sometimes worried the patch may disrupt applications, potentially giving rise to an outage as a result. Although such worries are reasonable, several vendors conduct meticulous tests of every patch before the system is made generally available, which are performed against a myriad of environments and applications. Moreover, the risks of not patching a major security vulnerability quickly typically eclipse the risks of a potential outage.
Patching security holes involves people as much as it does resources. Clear lines of communication and cooperation agreements among departments are necessary for a successful patch deployment. Security departments ought to develop standards and provide direction for patching security vulnerabilities across the industry. With the appropriate expectations in place, companies can create a system in which major security vulnerabilities are required to be patched immediately.
In addition to rolling out patches, it is equally important for organizations to make sure the patches are installed properly and functioning correctly. While automated patch management tools are available, they sometimes overlook a disruption in a patch download and incorrectly report that it was installed correctly. In order to verify a patch has been installed correctly, related files, binary versions and registry settings need to be checked manually.
For an in-depth look at the different stages of a security breach, click here.