Look at the state of cybersecurity now. What a mess! Things have been getting steadily worse now for years and there seems to be no end in sight. Every time we seem to be getting a handle on one new malware campaign another one comes online to bedevil us. The latest iteration is the Log4j debacle. In its wake, the government has demanded that their departments increase their efficiency and timeliness in the patching of their systems. Non-government organizations should take a cue from this and also increase their efforts to patch their systems in a timely manner. It is certain that cybercriminals are not wasting any time in exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities on the computer networks of all kinds of organizations.
One thing to keep in mind in the present environment is that the most serious and far-ranging exploits against computer networks in the last several years are coming from nation states and government sponsored hackers. These groups are developing very cleaver attacks and then striking selected targets all at once. Once they have taken their pound of flesh, they are then ensuring that their exploits are shared with cybercriminals around the world so that they too may get on board the gravy train. That means that organizations that are not a part of the original attack list have some amount of time make their systems secure. But this lag time may be of rather short duration. It would be unwise to simply wait for the next patching cycle to address these virulent new exploits. This means that organizations need to institute programs of continuous vulnerability monitoring and patching, despite the headaches such programs bring with them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that organizations need to ensure that all network entities are included in the patching program, not just Windows machines. All operating systems, software applications, hardware devices and firmware applications present on the network should be addressed. To ensure that all these network entities are included, we advocate combining vulnerability management programs with hardware and software inventories. That way you can ensure that no systems on the network are “falling through the cracks” when it comes to monitoring and patching.
Although perfect patching is not a panacea, and is reactive rather than proactive in nature, it goes a long way in preventing successful attacks against the average organization. This is especially true if your reaction time is short!