Now that we have completed our final Patch Tuesday for 2023, I thought that it may be helpful to summarize some of the key trends, risks and challenges in automating update and patch testing for the Windows ecosystem.
In 2023, these major patch management trends included the following key features:
- Volume of CVEs: Microsoft patched 909 CVEs in 2023, a slight decline from 2022, where 917 CVEs were patched. This indicates a relatively stable volume of vulnerabilities being addressed. We expect that 2024 will show a significant increase in reported CVEs for Microsoft platforms.
- Vulnerability Severity: Most vulnerabilities were rated as important, accounting for 90% of all CVEs patched, followed by critical at 9.6%
- Zero-Day Vulnerabilities: Microsoft addressed over 20 zero-day vulnerabilities in 2023, making it an eventful year in terms of security patches.
- Patch Release Frequency: Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, a monthly release of software patches for various Microsoft products, continued its regular cadence in 2023, with the company addressing 42 vulnerabilities in the December 2023 edition.
Best practices for Windows patch management in 2023 included developing a patch management policy, automating the patching process, and testing patches to reduce manual intervention and human error. Automated testing using the entire application portfolio was shown to be a key element in successful deployments.
Automating third-party patch management is also emphasized to ensure that all third-party applications are updated and protected against known vulnerabilities without manual intervention.
In 2024, the major concerns for patch management include the following:
- Rapidly Evolving Threat Landscape: As the pace of digital transformation accelerates and cyber threats become more sophisticated, organizations are increasingly concerned about keeping up with the evolving threat landscape. A robust patch management capability is essential to safeguard against potential cyberattacks.
- Patch Testing and Deployment: Organizations continue to face challenges in testing patches in a controlled environment to identify potential conflicts with existing software. Moreover, deploying patches across multiple systems simultaneously to reduce downtime remains a concern.
- Hybrid Work Environment: The rise of remote work has introduced complexities in managing and securing distributed endpoints. Disabling automatic updates, educating end users, and creating restore points are among the best practices to simplify the patching process in a hybrid work environment.
The risks of not using third-party patch management testing tools are significant and can have serious implications for organizations. Some of the key risks and concerns include:
- Expanded Attack Surface: Neglecting third-party patch management can lead to an expanded attack surface, as unpatched third-party applications create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber attackers.
- False Sense of Security: Failing to maintain third-party patch management can create a false sense of security, leaving organizations vulnerable to potential cyber threats.
- Compliance Issues: Organizations in regulated industries may face compliance challenges by not addressing third-party patch management. Neglecting this aspect can lead to difficulties in meeting regulatory standards and requirements, potentially putting the organization at risk
- Cybersecurity Breaches and Data Loss: Unpatched vulnerabilities in third-party applications can increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches, potentially leading to data loss, financial impact, and damage to the organization’s reputation.
In summary, the risks of not using third-party patch management tools include increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks, compliance challenges, and potential impact on both organizational and customer security. It is essential for organizations to prioritize comprehensive patch management, including the effective management of third-party application patches, to mitigate these risks and maintain a secure IT environment.
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