The need for patch management has repeatedly been demonstrated in recent years as companies large and small suffered data breaches due to unpatched vulnerabilities. The patch management function of applying patches to remediate known vulnerabilities may seem simple, but even one unpatched computer can lead to compromise. Last year the Equifax network was breached from an unpatched machine, resulting in the exposure of personal information from 143 million people. Patch management difficulties are faced by a wide range of companies too. The WannaCry ransomware exploited a known vulnerability in over 400,000 machines, resulting in millions of hours in lost employee time, loss of customer confidence, and loss of data. The patch for this vulnerability had been available for almost 60 days at the time of the attack.
The risks of failing to apply patches are clear, but it is important to point out that patch management is not as easy as it seems. Companies face real challenges in keeping a myriad of systems and applications current with the latest patches.
Patch management challenges
Patch management can be complicated as organizations extend into multiple sites and clouds on heterogeneous platforms. The modern enterprise consists of many systems and applications that may each have different patch release schedules. In addition to routine patch releases, vendors may also release critical patches to address urgent vulnerabilities. Many vendors are releasing patches on increasingly frequent schedules to more efficiently stay on top of newly discovered vulnerabilities, but this makes it more challenging to manage patch deployment. Rapid patch release schedules also require timely patch deployment strategies. Traditional patch deployment schedules are unable to meet the cybersecurity needs of today’s swiftly changing environment[…]