As business technologies evolve to meet companies’ shifting operational needs, IT administrators are having to put new security processes and tools in place to help reduce their vulnerability to both internal and external threats. According to research from Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime-related damages are forecasted to reach $6 trillion annually by the end of 2021, which is twice the amount recorded in 2015.
While technology leaders are no doubt aware of the risks posed by malware distribution, data breaches, phishing scams and brute-force attacks, there’s one security challenge that is frequently overlooked: Outdated applications and operating systems. Software and OS updates are crucial for eliminating zero-day threats, maximizing user productivity and ensuring workstations are performing reliably. However, when organizations allow users to complete work on their personal devices, it’s often much harder to uphold best practices in patch management. Despite the challenges, IT administrators must find ways to improve their update capabilities and gain visibility into vulnerable endpoints before a security incident causes major financial, operational and reputational harm.
Here are 5 reasons why application updates and Windows patches are vital to modern businesses:
- Eliminating known vulnerabilities
Large-scale malware attacks come in many different shapes and sizes, but a majority take advantage of software vulnerabilities in common business applications, such as web browsers and operating systems. For example, the 2017 Equifax data breach was caused by a known vulnerability in one of the organization’s web applications, McAfee reported. Patches for this issue were available a whole two months prior to the breach, but the company took no action.
Software and OS updates play a crucial role in cybersecurity by ensuring all workstations have the latest versions installed, and that no exploitable bugs are present. Without a proactive patch management solution, IT administrators may struggle to send critical batch updates, identify computers with outdated patches and maintain a secure IT environment.
- Capitalizing on new features and capabilities
While many application and OS patches are focused on mitigating code-level exploits and adding new security capabilities, some also bring wider capabilities to existing platforms. This culture of IT innovation is baked into many business-oriented technology companies, allowing them to meet their customers’ shifting needs and preferences. Rather than rolling out a new product, third-party vendors sometimes choose to optimize their products and services by integrating new automation features, data analytics tools or some other advanced capabilities.
When application patches fail or are stalled out, these new features can hang in limbo. This not only prevents employees from capitalizing on transformative IT capabilities, it can also slow down the rate of adoption across an entire organization. The ability to control application updates empowers businesses to quickly integrate new features and test out others that may disrupt employees’ workflows.
- Reducing IT issues and unplanned downtime
At both the individual and organizational levels, unplanned downtime due to IT issues can lead to decreased profitability and missed business opportunities. According to research from IBM, IT leaders believe the costliest consequences of downtime include lost revenue (53%), productivity losses (47%) and reputational damages (41%). When applications and OS are outdated, users may experience poor performance and a higher frequency of errors that prevents them from completing their work. This can have sweeping consequences for the entire organization, slowing down time to market and impacting their level of service.
By managing application and OS patches through a centralized platform, IT leaders can quickly identify at-risk devices and send out updates automatically. This process can also be automated so that end users don’t have to apply their own patches or keep up with new software versions.
- Mitigating data breaches
Workstations with outdated OS versions aren’t only a risk in and of themselves, they can also unknowingly spread malware to other devices within their network. Take, for example, Microsoft’s recent IT security controversy – in April 2020, the company released a major software patch that fixed more than 130 vulnerabilities across a wide range of products, Forbes reported. Without applying this critical patch, users would be at risk of severe malware infections and remote code executions that could easily spread to adjacent IT systems.
As companies continue to move toward fully connected environments, endpoint protection will become a major concern. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to move a portion of their workforces to a remote capacity, introducing new complexities into the mix. To stay ahead of possible threats, IT administrators will need to find ways to automate patch management from remote workers and review their usage to prevent costly security breaches.
Modernizing patch management with Faronics’ Deploy
If your organization is struggling to keep track of application and OS updates, Faronics’ Deploy may be the solution you’ve been looking for. Using Deploy, IT leaders can proactively monitor every device on their network and locate workstations with failed updates. Armed with advanced patching tools, IT teams can maintain complete control over in-network devices, send individual or batch updates and create granular policies for future patching needs.