Cyber Security: The Benefits of Automated Patch Management
With work-from-home culture taking the front seat in the past year and companies moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud, cyber criminals have also invented more sophisticated ways to conduct cyber-attacks – guest post from across the Pond by David Smith
This has created further challenges for the senior management to improve their organization’s security posture. Like other security measures, patch management is one of the keys to counter cyber threats in the digital world. Manual patch management can be time-consuming and inefficient, which is why automated patch management is the best way to handle incoming threats. Automated patch management is not only time-efficient, it also helps in patching third-party applications and multiple operating systems with detailed reports. It also saves finances and resources in the long term.
Let’s look at some key benefits automated patch management provides to its users.
Security is certainly the key benefit of automated patch management. Patches are regularly released to fix security vulnerabilities in a system. If there are no patches, those vulnerabilities can be exploited by cyber criminals through malicious ways and end up damaging or disrupting your system.
With timely and automated security patches, security breaches are likely to be prevented from happening. It also prevents all other associated damages that arise out of a breach such as loss of data, legal penalties, and reputational damage.
Security standards in certain industries are necessary for compliance. Organizations have to comply with different standards for quality assurance of their product or service. With time, more laws and regulations are now imposing best practices on organizations, and having systems that are fully patched is one of the basic requirements of these security standards.
Industries where these standards are almost mandatory for compliance mainly include healthcare, financial, and government sectors. Some of these standards are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or payment card companies in the financial sector, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in health sector, and ISO 27001, Family Educational Right and Privacy Act (FEBRA), and General Data Production Regulation, in general.
If an organization fails to comply with these regulations, it can face financial and legal penalties or even lose business in case of a major data breach.
3. Workplace Productivity
Automated patch management saves time and helps boost employee productivity. The time spent on manual patching can be spent on other important tasks. Patches provide fixes to vulnerabilities in the previous software versions or are introduced for improving an application’s performance. Some employees can find it hard to conduct manual patching.
The time they can spend on other tasks is spent on manual patching instead, resulting in lesser time for those tasks. Automated patch management solves the problem by getting it done in time.
Furthermore, for many data breaches, the concern for organizations is not only the stolen data but also the downtime that negatively affects workplace productivity. Downtime can be in the form of a congested network, malfunctioning applications, a slow system with malware, or a number of systems that are completely compromised and need to get the programs reinstalled.
4. IT Department Productivity
Besides overall employee productivity which can be evident only in terms of work quality, IT department’s productivity can be quantified. By calculating the resources and time needed for manually patching the systems, and comparing it with the resources and time saved as a result of automated patch management, productivity can be measured.
For organizations with more than 20 to 25 employees, it can create a huge difference for the IT team if they have automated systems. Often, the resources and time required to patch every system are so high that companies end up either patching only critical systems or don’t do it.
5. Extended Functionality
Automated patch management not only helps organizations keep up with security, it also helps them in staying updated with new features and functionality and provides support to other platforms. This means that organizations can find new opportunities to improve their services.
When You should Not Choose Automated Patch Management?
With countless benefits of automated patch management, there is no denying that an organization preferring security should choose such a solution for themselves. However, it’s important to know when you should use it and under what circumstances it is advisable to not use it.
For instance, for a critical application that cannot stand even a minute of downtime due to its revenue loss repercussions, using automated patch management is not advisable.
It is also important to consider the type of infrastructure being used. If an organization is manually deploying and managing its infrastructure, it’s not reasonable to use automated patch management. In other words, this means that automated patch management is preferable if your entire process of software deployment and management is automated.
Furthermore, if an application is outdated or brittle, automating its patch management is again not a good idea. The more advanced and updated your application is – particularly native to cloud infrastructure – the easier ways you can find to automate your patch management. This will ensure that its repeatable, feasible and less risky.
David Smith is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) specialized in Network and IoT Security with 12 years of experience in both the public and private sectors.