Vulnerability scanning and patch management are crucial to business IT operations. Having a defined plan to manage these tasks ensures a secure foundation to run your day-to-day tasks so you can support your organization’s IT operations.
Depending on the sophistication of your IT operation; there are defined tasks that must be followed to maintain a proper security posture. These processes must be organized and implemented on a regular basis. This blog will review Patch Management, and Vulnerability scanning, applying the use cases to specific industries.
Patch Management is a common practice within an IT department and almost all IT teams have a defined operation. The bigger the business, the more necessary it becomes to identify controls and provide the proper protection against malicious threats. One example is when Microsoft pushed updates out to your home PC, just on a much larger scale. When a team effectively maintains these controls, they can deliver an IT infrastructure that is secure.
Many IT companies run automated systems, powered by Remote Monitoring and Management software to run this operation across all clients. Some larger companies can implement patching to thousands of endpoints every month. This does not just apply to the operating systems, but all things including devices and machines – even anti-virus software, servers, firewalls, routers, etc.
This is extremely relevant to software companies as they must make sure the entire network is secure. When software companies sell an application, it become their duty to ensure that the technology is secure and properly conveyed to their subscribers. This is why they run Vulnerability Scans regularly to compliment the patching process. This way they can see, in full transparency, everything that must be secured.
Reasons why you need patch management
Patch Management is extremely important to companies, and here’s a few reasons why:
- If something goes un-patched, it leaves vulnerabilities open to the bad guys. For this reason alone, it is one of the major focuses of an IT operation.
- Hackers focus their efforts on time periods directly following a new release. They do so because it is the right time to exploit un-patched networks. This is why patching should be done immediately after releases.
- It is difficult and time-consuming to manually monitor and apply security updates, and this can prove to be unsafe. Just a slight delay in installing the updates could put a business’s network at risk from the bad guys.
- Patch Management software delivers automation allowing the IT department to attend to more important parts of the operation.
Another component of managing this operation is maintaining full documentation on all system configurations. Configuration Management is a defined operational procedure that applies to all IT assets, documenting configurations and a knowledge-base of resources collected by experts. Generally, the leadership of the IT team will develop a framework that must be followed across the entire operation.
Baseline configurations will be defined for all technology assets:
- Address security standards to compliance with defined requirements.
- Keep documentation updated and apply formal change management procedures.
- Follow an integrated system build process that’s enforced across all areas of the operation.
- All technologies must follow the baseline configurations.
Configuration management is important for all and the information should be centrally accessible to all members of the IT operations team. There are generally defined roles within the tech team that will have specific responsibilities from engineering to documentation. Without this documentation, scanning and patching would be less effective.
Vulnerability scanning identifies and forms inventory of all systems and IT assets on a corporate network. This includes everything from Servers, Storage, Containers, Operating Systems etc. down to basic installs such as printers. All devices will be identified, and the software will reach out and identify the operating system for each device. It also seeks out and reports on open ports within the network.
The objective is simply to seek out and detect weaknesses (vulnerabilities) within the network. This is a planned event, although it may look like an attack to 3rd parties such as hosts/ISPs. The internal IT team or Partner needs to plan accordingly to run the scan and generate the report.
Types of Vulnerability Scanning
There are 2 types of scans to consider ensuring that your business complies with specific regulations and standards (PCI, HIPAA, NIST etc, to name a few):
- External vulnerability scan: examines the network from the outside, looking for weaknesses and/or holes where cybercriminals may be able to exploit. The core focus will be on perimeter security devices such and firewalls for your network and/or application.
- Internal vulnerability scan: This scan is launched from within your network, behind the firewall. Like the name states, it is searching for weaknesses on the inside. This is specifically done so that you can protect what is inside the network so that criminals cannot exploit those weaknesses and propagate something malicious across the entire network.
One thing to note – these two scans run in similar fashion, but cannot be done simultaneously. It is critical to run both scans on your network regularly. This is the best way to ensure that all patching and operations are validated.
Vulnerability Scanning Vs Patch Management
Although Vulnerability scanning and patch management have similar responsibilities and outcomes within an IT operation, they still have some core differences. Vulnerability scanning is a part of managing vulnerabilities, which is defined with a 5-step process:
2) System Assessment
5) Validating Fixes
I many ways, patch management is a component of vulnerability management. Vulnerability scanning is run so that you can identify threats and vulnerabilities that may have been overlooked. After the team has identified issues, they must put remedies in place which can be defined as patching.
Normally, a business that subscribes to software, will get patches from the vendors they leverage. These businesses must control the responsibility of maintaining the hardware and software that they use to power their own operation.
Vulnerability scanning and patch management are crucial to an organization’s vulnerability security operation. Understanding the definitions, roles and interoperability between processes is important. Together, they complete a critical process of managing infrastructure. If run properly and efficiently, a business will have a much higher chance of protecting themselves from cybersecurity threats and potential damages.
Mindcentric works with businesses to provide sophisticated IT management and operations. Our clients range from government institutions to businesses with heavy regulatory compliance requirements to software vendors. Depending on each client’s unique needs, we apply regular patch management, configuration management, and vulnerability scans. Mindcentric runs everything through our ITIL compliant ticketing system with defined change management procedures.
Mindcentric has core operations in San Diego, CA and engineering resources across the continent to support our clients 24x7x365. Most of our managed clients have enterprise level needs and we cater those needs to specified operations. As part of an overall IT operations, we can include regular Vulnerability scanning/reporting as part of the operation.