A strong patch management program has many important components. It starts with identifying the right patches, implementing a patch schedule, deploying patches, and ensuring all patches are effective and working correctly. However, one critical but often-overlooked component of patch management is the actual testing of all patches. Testing patches before they are implemented is crucial to ensure that they will not wreak havoc on your machines, servers or networks and cause disruptions in your IT environment, not to mention impede customer service.
Patches are constantly being released, making testing an on-going action item for financial institutions to ensure their network and organization are protected. Testing can be a time-consuming task, requiring, hours, days or weeks, depending on the updates provided and criticality of the system to be patched. On the other hand, the cost of having to repair damaged software and network systems due to untested patches can be significant.
Effective Patch Management and Testing
Financial institutions cannot blindly install patches without understanding the potential impact the update will have on the institution’s network. Doing so can result in the elimination of key features in bank systems, incompatibility with critical functions, and even the removal of important data and financial information. Once patches are installed, it can be difficult to revert back to the older version.
All software applications require updates from vendors to remedy known vulnerabilities or security weaknesses, not just operating systems. This includes updates for third party software programs such as Adobe Acrobat®, Adobe Reader®, Adobe Flash®, Java™, Chrome™, and Firefox®. All patches should be tested in an environment that hosts the same critical applications, including business applications, servers, network systems and all the key applications unique to the financial institution. The goal is to replicate the whole environment as much as possible to determine the potential complications and outcomes for each patch.
Streamline Patch Testing
To help streamline the testing process and ensure all patches are thoroughly tested, Safe Systems has established one of the largest test groups in the United States focused on the financial services industry. The test group consists of more than 1,000 devices in real-world environments, ensuring that when a patch is approved for full deployment, the financial institutions system’s operations and applications are not impacted and business is not interrupted.
Having the support of an outsourced service provider testing all patches crucial to your institution ensures you have a comprehensive patching program that is guaranteed to deliver quick, accurate, and secure patch updates to all workstations and servers. This process will help mitigate the multiple risks associated with running unpatched and untested programs and automate the time-consuming process of testing and deploying new patches.
A lack of effective patch management and testing has contributed significantly to the increase in the number of security incidents in financial institutions. Adequately testing every possible configuration is a necessity for all financial organizations to protect against data breaches and other malicious attacks. Working with a third-party service provider to assist in the testing phase can save your organization countless hours; eliminate the headache of having to fix incompatible patches; and ensure software is up to date, resulting in a secure environment.