I recently was able to attend an interesting Cybersecurity workshop held at AT&T’s global headquarters in downtown Dallas. During a Q&A by one of AT&T’s top security professionals, I asked what he would consider the single most important piece of advice for cybersecurity in an enterprise IT environment.
His reply: “Prioritize Patch Management.” The rationale was simple: Patching is the single most effective method of keeping systems up-to-date against evolving threats.
To add some further commentary to this million-dollar advice – and at no cost to yourself, beyond spending a few minutes to read – let’s break down the main considerations which make patch management so important:
The number one reason why patch management is important. One of my favorite phrases is this: “The best way to learn is from other people’s mistakes.” In a sense, patch management is your opporunity to learn from the security incidents of others – when exploits have been identified and rectified by patches which you install before the exploit is used to take advantage within your IT environment. Keeping at the cutting edge of patch management will help avoid the headache and business / legal repercussions of a known security exploit.
Patches frequently address more than just security, but also performance problems and bugs as well. When the cuss words are flying as your staff deals with a habitual error in an enterprise application, there’s a chance yesterday’s patch release would’ve solved the problem before it even started had the most up-to-date stable patches been deployed.
Of course, patches are often equally responsible for application errors and cussing staff members – so if the patch is meant for performance tweaks only, be prepared to roll it back if necessary. A well-designed patch management solution will have processes in place to address situations like this.
With each high-profile cybersecurity incident comes inevitably greater scrutiny over business preparedness. Healthcare, finance, and government offices are definitely some of the most highly audited for IT security compliance – but other industries are beginning to stand up their own standards and guidelines to address the unique challenges faced in their fields. Patch management is a key part of staying up-to-date with most industry compliance standards.
Patch management: often overlooked, frequently behind schedule, but always important. Not sure if your IT environment is on a regular, auditable patch management plan? Take some time to find out – it just may keep your business out of the cybersecurity headlines.