The Cost of Overlooking Patch Management | Hacker Noon

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Patch management is often an understated component of cybersecurity compliance. It shouldn’t be. Failing to secure your IT network could result in heavy penalties for breaching data protection laws - not to mention the loss of faith you may encounter from your customers.

The increasing number of fines in recent years indicates that data protection regulators are getting serious about how well businesses look after the personal data of consumers. 

In 2020, there was a 39% increase in the number of GDPR penalties handed out for violating the terms of the legislation. And with numerous strategies used by cybercriminals, companies of all sizes face increasing risks.

When the EU's General Data Protection Regulations were introduced in 2018, the focus was on how companies process and handle data. Although protecting data from cybercriminals was written into the legislation from the outset, it garnered little attention from mainstream media. 

The overwhelming advice was given to businesses as they had an obligation to make it easier for EU citizens to understand how their data is being used and raise complaints if they suspected any jiggery-pokery.  

In the past couple of years, the reality has hit home that firms will be penalised for failing to install adequate cybersecurity defenses

Although cybercriminals have a long list of strategies to infiltrate IT networks, a common theme that could catch companies cold is failing to update security patches intended to resolve potential vulnerabilities in various software programs.

Companies Could Be Hit Hard For Microsoft Error

In the aftermath of the WannaCry data breach that affected more than 200,000 Microsoft customers in 2017, it emerged that companies that failed to update their system and patch the vulnerability would be held accountable. 

The hackers in the WannaCry attack used the same vulnerability that was exploited by the NSA months earlier. The role of the NSA is to help American tech companies stay ahead of cyber threats from overseas.

According to reports, more than 30,000 US companies could face lawsuits for failing to update Microsoft’s Exchange Server following the breach in January this year.

The email service used by small businesses that have not migrated their data to the cloud could fall foul of US data protection laws. 

The US government issued a statement warning business owners and federal agencies to immediately update their systems with the patch Microsoft released on 2 March. 

Reuters reported that Microsoft is immune to lawsuits once a patch has been released. In short, Microsoft’s customers are responsible for protecting the personal data of your customers - not Microsoft. 

What is Patch Management? 

A “patch” is a piece of code designed to close gateways that could be exploited by hackers. 

It is common for vulnerabilities to appear on business software such as Microsoft 365 and the various mobile applications, plugins, and operating systems once the product is on the market. 

Whilst the software vendor is responsible for eliminating vulnerabilities, tech firms do not face legal sanctions for their products failing to protect user data. 

The burden of responsibility for a data breach is with businesses that use the software. This can cause problems for small businesses that do not have the resources to manage and organise cybersecurity defiances. 

Patch management is required for a wide range of software including computers, mobile devices, networks, and systems. 

The number of daily updates most firms need to perform each day causes too many disruptions that impact productivity. Last year a record high of 18,335 network vulnerabilities was reported. 

Patch management is an important factor in securing your network to prevent malicious actors from stealing personal data. Businesses that do not have the resources to handle the plethora of patches that require updating an average-sized SME should consider outsourcing patch management to IT support specialists.

The Growing Threat of Cybercrime 

With more employees working from home, critical infrastructures are increasingly at risk of cyberattacks. Since the global pandemic, malicious actors have turned their attention to targeting remote workers. 

A report published by Deloitte reads:

“Cybercrime remains a growth industry with the risk of wider and more powerful cyber attacks on businesses intensifying. Our research shows that 64% of consumers want companies to introduce more identification authorisation processes on their websites.”

Due to the high number of businesses using Microsoft 365, the cloud suite is a favorite target for cybercriminals. Moreover, security companies report hackers are having a “worrying degree of success.” 

Microsoft releases security patches every month in an attempt to stay ahead of hackers. The number of updates can be disruptive to SME’s - and potentially critical if you miss an update. 

With an ever-increasing number of cyber threats, companies must be aware of the techniques cybercriminals use to target them and their employees. Cybersecurity is more critical if your employees work from home.

Patch management technology can monitor home networks and mobile devices remotely and ensure they are updated in good time. This removes the onus of responsibility from your employees so they can focus on their reaching their targets. 

Having said that, ensure your staff is consciously aware of the threat posed by malicious actors. Don’t risk breaching data protection laws and keep your workforce up-to-date in the strategies cybercriminals adopt. 

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