Saturday, June 14, 2008

Patching Strategies - Time to Rethink Conventional Wisdom?

Another 'must read' from Verizon Business Security group. Very, very interesting. Read it. It looks like it's time think about patch strategies and how they fit in with other security countermeasures.

The first point to ponder

"Given average current patching strategies, it would appear that strategies to patch faster are perhaps less important than strategies to apply patches more comprehensively..."

Making sure that all your systems are patched and having thorough, comprehensive system coverage is more important that quickly applying patches but with less thorough system coverage. So essentially you'd be better off  ensuring that you don't miss a single computer or server than you would be by spending that same work effort on a faster deployment that leaves a few systems unpatched.

And the second point

To summarize the findings in our “Control Effectiveness Study”, companies who did a great job of patching (or AV updates) did not have statistically significant less hacking or malicious code experience than companies who said they did an average job of patching or AV updates. And companies who did other simpler countermeasures, like lightweight standard configurations, had very strong correlations with reduced risk. The Verizon Business 2008 Data Breach Investigations Report supports very similar conclusions.

(The bold is my emphasis.)

Simple countermeasures, presumably done right, rather than complex, but  poorly implemented controls or systems. Keep it simple, but do it right. For example:

both applying default deny ingress and egress router ACL’s (p=0.006) and doing light-weight hardening to a “minimum configuration” (p=0.007) were very highly correlated with lower malcode or hacking events.


Verizons conclusion

Collectively, our “Verizon Business 2008 Data Breach Investigations Report”, along with our earlier studies, suggests that getting the right mix of countermeasures in an enterprise is far from simple. Rather than “do more,” all three studies seem to suggest that we should “work smarter.”

My conclusion

The Verizon Business 2008 Data Breach Investigations Report that I comment on here and Verizon's analysis of their other studies commented on in this post - make it look like the thoughts on least bit system management, on simple, but structured system management, perhaps are on the right track. I've outlined essential transitions for improving availability, and I suspect that there is a similar set of simple, but essential transitions for improving security.

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