Channel, Networking

How to Deal With Unpatched Vulnerabilities

Flat and isolated vector illustration icon with minimal modern design and long shadow
Author: Carlos Arnal, product marketing manager, WatchGuard Technologies
Author: Carlos Arnal Cardenal, product marketing manager, WatchGuard Technologies

During the last few years, it seems as though not a day goes by without a headline shouting that some organization has experienced a data breach, putting the business, customers, and partners at risk. For managed security providers (MSPs) to keep their clients out of the news, it’s essential they understand the most common causes of data breaches and what they can do to prevent and protect from threats like unpatched vulnerabilities exploitation.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, according to the 2021 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, scanning for and exploiting vulnerabilities was the top infection vector of 2020. The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack was probably the clearest example of what can go wrong when patches aren't applied; in this case a patch for the vulnerability exploited by the ransomware had existed for several months.

All these facts have shown that patch management's importance has risen considerably. 

It has become a critical security layer as a complex and growing risk for companies. MSPs must be more proactive in keeping their customers’ environments up to date with all the latest third-party security patches and software updates to protect them.

IT administrators and staff often do not have enough time or resources to take care of patch and update management. Therefore, MSPs need to understand the importance of preventing vulnerability exploitation, but to achieve this, they have to address three major challenges:

Identify, prioritize and remediate

  • Vulnerability identification: Only a small number of attacks occur as a result of vulnerabilities that are unknown to all parties (zero day attacks). In most cases, cybercriminals exploit known flaws. For this reason, MSPs must ensure that their clients are quickly made aware of when they appear, as the time between a vulnerability being discovered and when attacks are executed has been significantly reduced. 
  • Prioritizing mitigation: While it may seem straightforward, most organizations struggle to identify which patch updates to install first. In fact, according to Ponemon, the average time it takes companies to deploy patches to applications or systems is 97 days. That's why MSPs need to know which patches to prioritize in a reliable and automatic way. 
  • Vulnerability remediation: In the final stage of remediation, the necessary patches are installed to repair an identified vulnerability or security breach. However, this is also a risky task. MSPs must ensure that the correct patches are deployed in organizations, as they may not be legitimate (they must come from an official source), and patches are not always valid for all types of devices. Moreover, MSPs must be sure that the update has no negative impacts or side effects as, in some cases, they involve changes in configuration, firewall policies, etc.

Enhance your security services with patch management

Faced with these challenges, MSPs should deploy advanced tools for their clients that simplify the patch management lifecycle for their installed software and operating systems.

The following are some of the main benefits that your customers experience when implementing an efficient patch management solution:

  • A more secure environment: when admins regularly patching vulnerabilities, they are helping to manage and reduce the risk that exists in their environment. This helps protect your clients’ organization from potential security breaches.
  • Happy customers: if your organization sells a product or service that requires customers to use your technology, you know how important it is that the technology actually works. Patch management is the process of fixing software bugs, which helps keep their systems up and running. 
  • Meet compliance goals: patch management is a key requirement in many security regulations, including the CISA Binding Operation Directive, which strongly recommends that private businesses review, monitor and remediate their listed vulnerabilities to strengthen security and resilience posture, and avoid monetary fines from some regulatory bodies.

Customers worried about cybersecurity or looking for an extra security layer want and need these capabilities to prevent known exploited vulnerabilities at the endpoint, but many struggle to find the right solutions. By selecting solutions that provide MSPs with the ability to deliver additional protection and services to their customers, you can ensure you're delivering cutting-edge technologies that drive profitability and reduce resource burdens.

Guest blog courtesy of WatchGuard Technologies. Read more WatchGuard guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of ChannelE2E’s sponsorship program.