Vulnerabilities are the bread and butter of hackers, especially those who are looking to penetrate into the systems of enterprise networks. They’re being used more and more commonly in targeted attacks, which can can cost companies millions in dollars in revenue and reputation. As such, it’s in companies’ best interests to secure their endpoints and networks against vulnerability exploitation of any kind.
Unfortunately, fully shielding any network against vulnerability exploitation can be difficult. One of the main challenges that exist specifically for businesses is the difficulty in patching all their endpoints before attackers can exploit them. Factors that could affect this challenge include the endpoint count itself (which in businesses, could reach into the hundreds) and the duration between vulnerability disclosure and patch deployment (by the software developers, which can take weeks or months).
There’s also the fact that zero-day vulnerabilities are becoming more common, forcing software vendors to roll out emergency patches. Examples of these include Heartbleed, Shellshock, POODLE, etc.
Add to all of this the usual challenges related to patching legacy systems, which may be difficult to patch due to their outdated software/hardware, and you’ve got a situation ripe for targeted attacks—or worse, a data breach.
Thankfully, there is a way to protect against vulnerabilities even if the needed patch still unavailable for deployment. It also minimizes the amount, time and effort required to protect systems from exploits. It’s called virtual patching.
Virtual patching (or virtual shielding) provides the same functionality as software patches without the software patches themselves. It achieves this through implementing protecting network controls that stop vulnerable servers from being attacked, working on the premise that exploits take identifiable network paths to and from application vulnerabilities. By blocking these paths, the vulnerability is effectively ‘patched’ until the actual patch needed to resolve it can be applied.
With virtual patching implemented, IT administrators will no longer have to contend with the unfortunate exposure period that ensues during the entire patching process—or the revenue-draining downtime that such an essential activity will warrant.
Don’t let your network fall victim to a multi-million dollar data breach. For more information about virtual patching and its benefits, you can check out our relevant primer, Virtual Patching in Mixed Environments: How It Works To Protect You.
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