Patching IT Systems To Avoid Vulnerabilities and Hacks

By March 5, 2020patching

Patch management, or software license management, is all part of maintaining a healthy business.

If you own a device of any kind, whether a computer or smartphone, you have applied a security patch or an update.

Companies are more vulnerable than many because servers and desktops are often not properly set up to receive and apply updates because upgrades might disrupt a business or break legacy software.

Whether you use Apple or Android smartphones, a notebook, a desktop PC or a tablet you will regularly be asked to approve an update by the system itself, your IT staff or your MSP may do it for you.

The updates aren’t there to delay or keep an individual from their everyday tasks, but to offer security for the devices. When you don’t have the most recent patches, it’s likely that your system is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Security patches help protect your devices and the data contained in those devices by applying new updates that respond to new threats.

Hackers use automated tools to constantly scan millions of connected devices that have not applied patches against vulnerabilities.

Cyberattacks are going to cost businesses over $6 trillion dollars in damages by 2021. Also, 59 percent of businesses in the US and UK report having faced third-party data breaches, however, only 35 percent say that their third-party risk management is highly efficient, according to AON’s 2019 Cyber Security Risk Report.

Cyberattacks are not only aimed at big companies, but also small businesses and government agencies. These statistics show the nature and scale of cyberattacks and the need for businesses to protect their systems with patches.

The Dangers of IT System Attacks

From infiltrations on companies’ infrastructure to the breaching of data to spear-phishing or brute force, internet threats come in different forms and sizes and they don’t discriminate businesses from individuals when looking for targets.  You may think that your small business is not likely to be targeted by cybercriminals, however, sadly, that’s not the case. There are thousands of small businesses that become victims of malware, phishing, hacking, and other forms of cyberattacks every year.  Cyberattacks against giant businesses are publicized by the news media, but attacks against small businesses attract little attention, giving the small business community a false sense of online security. Unfortunately, small businesses are more vulnerable than large companies because they employ fewer resources for security.

Cyberattacks on small businesses and other entities can cause damage in different ways, such as:

  • Damage to electronic data
  • Extra expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Extortion losses
  • Security and privacy lawsuits
  • Notifications costs
  • Damage to reputation

An attack is able to damage electronic data that is stored on the computers. For instance, a virus can render the sales records useless costing your staff a lot of time in recreating those records. A business may also incur extra expenses in order to keep the business operating. Think of it this way, when a hacker invades your system, he or she may damage several computers. To help restore operations and keep things running, your business may need to purchase or rent several laptops.

A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) may make your business suffer income losses. For example, the attack may force your business to shut down for a couple of days, or pay a premium cost for rushed assistance, as it brings things in order and creates patches for the system’s vulnerabilities. The closure causes the business to not only lose income but also customers. Moreover, a cyber thief may steal data from your computers and if that data belongs to another party like a customer or a vendor, you may be sued for that breach of data. The party whose data has been breached sues you for negligence, something that could result in financial losses. Cases pertaining to data breaches are very costly and could easily bring your business down to its knees.

Besides, you may find yourself in a situation where a hacker steals sensitive information either yours or someone else’s and asks for a ransom amount otherwise he or she posts that data on the internet. Businesses that suffer cyberattacks are likely to have their reputation damaged. Customers may avoid conducting business with the entity citing it as careless and does not have internal controls.

So, the risks of cyberattacks to businesses are many and you should always ensure that your systems are patched to prevent such attacks.

The Purpose Patch Management

A patch or a fix refers to adjustment done to the code of a business’ software. A patch updates components of the software, for example, it fixes a bug or an error that has been discovered after your software release. If a fix can be done without having to restart the software, it may be referred to as a hotfix. A service pack involves bundling of several released fixes and patches to allow for the convenience of the users to install the fixes at once. When it comes to a system update, it offers new functionalities and features besides a range of fixes. Security patches are used to address vulnerabilities within a system, network, or software that cybercriminals may use to have access to devices and data. So, what’s the purpose of having system patches?

You may have heard about the WannaCry cyberattack that took place in 2017. The attack started after the United States National Security Administration (NSA) detected vulnerability within the Microsoft Windows operating system associated with the server message block protocol. This protocol is important in network communication. A computer infected with WannaCry ransomware would encrypt files on its hard drive, preventing the user from accessing them. After locking out the user, the worm would then hold the files ransom, often demanding the user to pay a payment in the form of bitcoin.

When NSA realized that hackers had stolen the worm, it warned Microsoft about that vulnerability and the software giant released a patch to help fix the problem. What users didn’t realize is that Microsoft had already released a patch about two months ago before the attack happened. So, the worm shouldn’t have affected users in the first place, however, those businesses and individuals that didn’t apply the patch that had previously been released, were at an extremely high risk of infection.

Another lesson learned from the WannaCry attack is that an organization should implement patch management like turning on automatic updates or having routine checkups of your security vulnerabilities and applying patches against them. In managing a patch in an organization, it may require time for installation which may interrupt the functioning of computers and networks. Proper timing of the patching around users’ schedules is crucial. It may not be easy for systems that have to operate 24/7.

Proper planning for the patch is essential if you have to implement an effective, convenient, and cost-effective patching process in your organization.

The Importance of Patch Management

It’s important to ensure an up to date system patching to help protect your devices, network, and business. A security patch reduces exposure to cyberattacks.  You may think that your business can’t suffer from a cyberattack, however, the moment it happens is when you know it’s real and it never discriminates. Although it may feel the attacks come out of the blue, quite often, patches are available before attacks exploit a vulnerability that they use to infiltrate systems.

System patches also help avoid lost productivity. A cyberattack can cause system downtime leading to lost productivity. A company may experience monetary losses – often the cost of patching and delay of production or unproductive workers. Besides, system patching allows you to protect your business data, a very valuable asset for your business. Today, businesses rely on data to make key decisions to foster growth. If that data is stolen, it may negatively impact the business processes and strategic goals.

When you patch your systems, it helps protect customer data. Many businesses have lost their customer data from cyberattacks. Today, businesses have the responsibility to safeguard their customer data. When breaches of data involving customers’ data happen to a business, it can suffer many consequences, including financial backlash, because of being negligent.

System patching also helps protect other devices in your network. If there is a worm that infiltrates your computer network, it could easily spread to attack other devices connected to the network. If the system remains unpatched or if there is a single unvigilant user, he or she can cause serious consequences to the entire network of the systems.

Patching offers you peace of mind knowing that at least, you have protection from known vulnerabilities and your system is not likely to suffer from cyberattacks.

Conclusion to Patch Management

Whether it’s updating your software or keeping your system well protected, it is important you consider system patching very seriously. Timing is very important when it comes to patching because if you don’t do it the right time, your systems or devices may be vulnerable. You may think that since your business is not a large corporate organization, it’s not likely to be targeted by cybercriminals, however, today; small businesses are actually the larger, easier targets and have become a favorite for many attackers. You may need to consider bringing in an expert to help with your system patching needs before something bad happens.

 

 

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