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Ask any good IT tech about software and you’ll get the same answer. All software systems have open, critical vulnerabilities all the time. Organizations can protect themselves by keeping up to date with security patches. Using software from reliable vendors is also a best practice.

 

What Is Patching?

The term “patch” refers to a set of changes for a software system that must be applied in the form of an update. Patches improve, update or fix software. For example, a patch may make a software application run better on older machines. Alternatively, a patch may make it harder to hack an application or fix bugs.

 

Why Patching Is So Important

In 2017, American data analytics and technology company Equifax suffered a data breach. Cybercriminals used this breach to access the data of 148 million Equifax customers. The reason for the Equifax data breach: a vulnerability within Equifax’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

Cybercriminals compromised 1.7 billion records during January 2019 alone. This statistic reflects a drastic uptick in cybercrime worldwide. Businesses need to focus on cybersecurity and patching now more than ever.

Patching For Small Businesses Vs. Large Businesses

Large businesses often have millions of software vulnerabilities open at any given time. This is more issues than they can realistically address. This problem scales down to smaller businesses as well. The lack of IT techs small businesses have makes patching vulnerabilities difficult.

Patching isn’t just a convenience that makes software easier to use or more secure. Patching can mean the difference between success and a data breach for businesses.

Legacy Applications Put Up Barriers To Patching

Patches that affect modern software often have a habit of breaking legacy applications. This problem is particularly important for small businesses. Many small businesses have been using outdated software systems for a long time. These organizations lack the funds to replace legacy applications, so they simply don’t.

For all businesses, the reality of software systems is the same. There are too many open vulnerabilities and not enough time to patch them. Patching can be overwhelming due to how it can complicate inter-application communications. The result is “patch paralysis.” Research shows businesses wait up to three months on average before patching vulnerabilities.

 

The Importance Of A Vulnerability Remediation Process

To identify what needs patching first, businesses should create a vulnerability remediation process. Here’s a three-step template for creating an effective remediation process:

1. Code analysis and inventory

Keeping an accurate inventory of software components is a must for businesses. It helps keep software secure and up to date. Use SAST, DAST and Pen testing to figure out what code may be vulnerable before a product or service ships. Security advisories and databases should also be consistently referenced. This helps businesses remain up-to-date on the status of open-source and vendor software.

2. Vulnerability prioritization

IT teams should focus on vulnerabilities they know are open. Use a third-generation Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tool. SCA tools let you understand which vulnerabilities are critical.

3. Vulnerability remediation

In-house IT techs should patch any critical vulnerabilities in internal software applications. For compromised vendor applications, the team will have to contact the vendor. Addressing open-source vulnerabilities is almost impossible. For this reason, it’s good to use an automated SCA tool. These tools can track when patches for open-source components are published.

 

Find Software Vendors That Take Patching Seriously

One reliable way to avoid patch paralysis is to focus on vulnerable applications. Apply high priority patches that won’t destabilize the entire system.

Vendor-provisioned software always runs the risk of creating holes in an organization’s cybersecurity. Vendors are responsible for patching applications. This is an issue, since vendors will often try to avoid patching vulnerabilities due to cost. Businesses should only work with software vendors that apply patches often. Businesses shouldn’t work with vendors that they can’t trust or that have a bad record.

Get Help From The Experts

Struggling to keep your software systems patched? Internet Contrasts specializes in designing, installing and supporting computer networks. To learn more about what Internet Contrasts can do for you, click here.

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