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How To Ensure Your Network Is Properly Patched?October 19, 2017

Making use of a patch management tool doesn't necessarily mean all the systems in your network have been properly patched. Because no matter how technically-equipped the patch management tool you may be using might be, it will be of no use to you without a solid patch management strategy in place; in other words, if no proper security policies form a part of that strategy.

There are 5 critical security controls every enterprise patch management strategy should address or cover in order for their patch management tools to be effective.

  1. Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices
  2. Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software
  3. Secure Configuration for Hardware and Software on Various Devices
  4. Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation
  5. Controlled Use of Device Privileges

They are:

  1. Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices: This might seem like a very simple (and therefore negligible) task. But form the core of patch management. Because, only if you do so, you'll be able to correctly distinguish between those devices which are authorized to enter your network and those that are not. In other words, you'll be able to restrict unauthorized devices from entering your network, only if you maintain an inventory of authorized devices.
  2. Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software: Next comes inventorying of what's inside of these authorized devices. That is, different kinds — and versions — of software packages. Why? Because different devices may require different patches. And only by inventorying the software available within your enterprise devices, you'll be able to patch them properly.
  3. Secure Configuration for Hardware and Software on Various Devices: Then comes configuration. Secure configuration of both devices and the software available to them. In other words, steps you take to make them foolproof to external as well as internal security threats. How is your system or the software in it is going to respond if attackers try breaking it? Will they gain access to everything that's on the device or only to specific non-sensitive data? As you can realize, secure device configuration is a significant step which can supplement good patch management practices in securing your network.
  4. Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation: Security patches are not free from vulnerabilities. They just take you a step closer to becoming more secure. Therefore continuous vulnerability assessment of these security patches is necessary and appropriate remediation processes should be thought of beforehand. Like, for example, which version of the security patch your enterprise will rollback to in case the current version fails? And other such patch related issues should be addressed as well.
  5. Controlled Use of Device Privileges: This step concerns itself with the regulating of user privileges to the devices which they've been provided access. Level of access permissions should be decided based on the user roles. Obviously, the top-level officials will need more access, while for others the access will be rather restricted. Then come the admin privileges. What about these people who are responsible for configuring the security policy or patching for the whole IT system? How much access should they be provided? All these questions should be resolved in the right manner.

Conclusion:

Patch management is a complex process. No doubts about that. But it can be made simple — and effective as well — by going by the book. That is, by drafting a patch management strategy which takes into consideration all the 5 steps listed in this blog. And then by selecting an efficient patch management tool using which this plan can be efficiently put into action.

To reiterate the 5 steps crucial to enterprise patch management are: 1) Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices 2) Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software 3) Secure Configuration for Hardware and Software on Various Devices 4) Continous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation and 5) Controlled Use of Device Privileges.

Therefore patch your networks well and stay secure!

Network Patch Management

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