Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Java IoT, Microservices Expo

Cloud Security: Article

Patch as Patch Can: All Software Is Flawed

A meticulous patching program is necessary to prevent server and client-side exploits

Many IT departments have weak patching processes - especially on the client-side. And it's no wonder - patching is tough. Across all industries and platforms, the Window of Exploit (WOE) - that is, the time lag between announced discovery and the availability of a patch - for web-based vulnerabilities is a whopping 233 days, according to WhiteHat Security. This leaves your organization exposed for an unacceptably long period of time.

It may not be glamorous, but a meticulous patching program is necessary to prevent server and client-side exploits. HP's DVLabs and other research based on Open Source Vulnerability Database (OSDV) data found that several of today's successful "Top Ten" vulnerabilities were discovered (and patches were released for them) in the mid-2000s. Yet they continue to be exploited by attackers. Can you say with certainty that none of those vulnerabilities linger in your organization? How do you know?

While many software publishers don't bother to release patches, the two most aggressive vendors that are religious about patching are Microsoft and Adobe. Ironically, they somehow still account for the majority of client-side vulnerabilities, with the Office Suite products and Adobe Flash Player and Reader topping the list.

Even if you have the world's best patching process, your organization must strictly enforce policies to prevent re-introduction of vulnerabilities into your environment.

Case in point is Conficker and its infection of millions of unpatched systems since 2008. Three years after Microsoft issued a patch against the flaw, the worm is still looked upon as the most commonly encountered piece of malicious software, representing 15% of all infection attempts (as seen by Sophos customers) in the last six months.

What's happening is that plenty of infected PCs are spreading the contagion because too many of us are not patching. Apply patches consistently and you will be protected. But the constant noise of Conficker rebounding off network defenses is hiding some of the quieter and more targeted threats.

"By the end of 2011, Conficker was still the largest network threat in the world," says the most recent Sophos Security Threat Report.

Hand Microsoft credit for taking responsibility and for its transparency. In its own TechNet blog, the company admits with not an iota of ambiguity that "software itself is never completely secure."

It makes a case that we have all heard before but is worth repeating, namely that security management is a strategy and must be dealt with persistently. There is no complete solution and the work is never finished. There is no gauge to tell you that your network or systems are now secure or not secure. And it doesn't help to simply add more solutions to the stack.

SecureList and Kaspersky Labs researchers agree that the average PC has at least 12 vulnerabilities at any given time. No matter how well your organization manages patching - particularly on the client-side - and enforces policies, you are likely to see common vulnerabilities reintroduced into your IT environment. You are never totally secure. There is never a point when you can say the infrastructure is secure and walk away. The TechNet post asks, "Why can't you be 100% secure?" and gives the following reasons:

  • Because people are involved
  • Because users make mistakes
  • Because administrators also make mistakes
  • Because systems don't always get updated when they should
  • Because software itself is never completely secure

This is a fundamental concept that needs to be understood. There are too many variables and too many dependencies. The take-away lesson here is this: a false sense of security can be your worst enemy.

More Stories By Michelle Drolet

Michelle Drolet is founder of Towerwall, a data security services provider in Framingham, MA with clients such as PerkinElmer, Smith & Wesson, Middlesex Savings Bank, Brown University and SMBs. You may reach her at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Every organization is facing their own Digital Transformation as they attempt to stay ahead of the competition, or worse, just keep up. Each new opportunity, whether embracing machine learning, IoT, or a cloud migration, seems to bring new development, deployment, and management models. The results are more diverse and federated computing models than any time in our history.
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Atmosera delivers modern cloud services that maximize the advantages of cloud-based infrastructures. Offering private, hybrid, and public cloud solutions, Atmosera works closely with customers to engineer, deploy, and operate cloud architectures with advanced services that deliver strategic business outcomes. Atmosera's expertise simplifies the process of cloud transformation and our 20+ years of experience managing complex IT environments provides our customers with the confidence and trust tha...
Where many organizations get into trouble, however, is that they try to have a broad and deep knowledge in each of these areas. This is a huge blow to an organization's productivity. By automating or outsourcing some of these pieces, such as databases, infrastructure, and networks, your team can instead focus on development, testing, and deployment. Further, organizations that focus their attention on these areas can eventually move to a test-driven development structure that condenses several l...
The graph represents a network of 1,329 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained "#DevOps", or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets, taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 18,000 tweets. The network was obtained from Twitter on Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 23:50 UTC. The tweets in the network were tweeted over the 7-hour, 6-minute period from Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 16:29 UTC to Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 23:36 UTC. Additional tweets that were mentioned in this...
Over the course of two days, in addition to insightful conversations and presentations delving into the industry's current pressing challenges, there was considerable buzz about digital transformation and how it is enabling global enterprises to accelerate business growth. Blockchain has been a term that people hear but don't quite understand. The most common myths about blockchain include the assumption that it is private, or that there is only one blockchain, and the idea that blockchain is...
Never mind that we might not know what the future holds for cryptocurrencies and how much values will fluctuate or even how the process of mining a coin could cost as much as the value of the coin itself - cryptocurrency mining is a hot industry and shows no signs of slowing down. However, energy consumption to mine cryptocurrency is one of the biggest issues facing this industry. Burning huge amounts of electricity isn't incidental to cryptocurrency, it's basically embedded in the core of "mini...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
The term "digital transformation" (DX) is being used by everyone for just about any company initiative that involves technology, the web, ecommerce, software, or even customer experience. While the term has certainly turned into a buzzword with a lot of hype, the transition to a more connected, digital world is real and comes with real challenges. In his opening keynote, Four Essentials To Become DX Hero Status Now, Jonathan Hoppe, Co-Founder and CTO of Total Uptime Technologies, shared that ...