How MSPs can help clients keep their software up to date
Unpatched software vulnerabilities continue to be the most widely used attack vector. There are several factors behind this: SMBs are implementing new software applications in their infrastructure more than ever to simplify business operations and be more efficient. But this reality is changing their organizational landscape, adding more complexity to their security posture. There has been a shift from in-person working, where all employees work from a single office using the company’s devices, to a hybrid work environment, where employees either work remotely, from home or the office, in some cases using their own devices in a new flexible model that workers now demand from organizations. This has expanded the attack surface, which has been blurred and moved away from the traditional security perimeter of the physical office. This new situation has led to a rise in the number of software vulnerabilities.
On average, major companies use 37 different software tools or platforms to carry out their daily operations, and, in the case of large organizations, this number leaps to 90. With so many applications, IT and security teams cannot keep up with the vulnerabilities and patches that should be deployed in a reasonable time frame. This is why many of the exploited vulnerabilities are more than six months old, and patches that were available to fix these vulnerabilities have not been applied on time, opening the company to a breach. Moreover, cybercriminals are actively looking for security gaps to exploit that take IT managers by surprise. In our latest Internet Security Report, we revealed that MS Office exploits had emerged as the top threat in the second quarter of the year, in contrast to the decline in malware volume. Undoubtedly, OS and third-party software patch management is becoming more complicated since not all companies have the skills, technology, and time to handle it correctly, so SMBs are opting to leave this task to MSPs.
However, patch management is not child's play for MSPs, either. Getting a full picture of the vulnerabilities in their customers' environments, prioritizing which patches need to be deployed first, and implementing them are not always easy. Particularly if you have limited resources and a team that can be overloaded. So, to get the job done and not miss anything, MSPs need to adopt a methodical approach to these tasks and establish a program that allows them to stay on top of things. The best way to do this is to create a system inventory, combined with running frequent scans of the system and network assets register that provides constant visibility, thereby enabling MSPs to decide which patches need to be deployed and when. Next, assets with outdated software should be grouped together according to patch criticality, and, whenever patch deployment requires downtime, the impact that this would have on business operations needs to be calibrated.
Apart from the steps outlined above, it is important to keep up to date with software vendor patch announcements. At WatchGuard, we offer a monitoring service where we list the critical patches available to help MSPs and IT teams in companies keep on top of things. But using a patch management solution is undoubtedly the best way to make an MSPs job easier in terms of helping customers ensure their software is up to date to reduce their attack surface.
An automated patch management tool removes the need for manual activities while providing accuracy. Real-time updates and alerts keep MSPs constantly informed, which translates into better customer service and long-term customer loyalty. As well as saving time and resources, it reduces the need for team members to perform repetitive tasks, allowing them to redirect their efforts to other areas to maximize the company's efficiency and productivity. MSPs must realize that sometimes the best way to stay in control and address their customers' needs is not to attempt to do everything themselves but to rely on a trusted provider who can offer the technology and tools they need to protect against increasingly sophisticated threats. Customers worried about improving their security posture can leave it to those MSPs who can deliver added value security services to them, so they will not need an in-house team — saving time and costs and reducing resource burdens.