Unpatched and Unauthorized software are simple backdoor for exploitation

To prevent security threats most of the organization implement dozens of top priority security tools. However, Unpatched and unauthorized software leaves a backdoor for hackers which can put business in serious security risks. Over the last decade software vulnerabilities have increased drastically. Most of the security breach Occurs exploiting unpatched operating system, network equipment, Internet-related software, Including add-ins, browser helper objects etc. Organization should maintain Patch management Process and it should be review and update on timely manner. To prevent potential threats, it is the responsibility of every individual in an organization to cooperate and allow IT System Administrators to install latest security patch/hot-fix whenever it releases by software Vendors. Sometimes patch implementation fails as because IT administrator ignore to install it and sometimes situation faced by administrator where users refuse to provide downtime because of running critical business activity. Below listed are few threats for unpatched systems:

  • Unauthorized system access attempts
  • Disclosure of information
  • Unauthorized data storage or transmission
  • Unauthorized hardware and software modifications
  • Corrupt files and destroyed or modified information
  • Hard drive erasure and loss of information
  • Hacker access and sabotaged systems

 Security measures:

  • Audit system on regular basis and identify missing patches
  • Deploy patch/updates by following proper process in order to eliminate application vulnerabilities
  • Ensure operating systems and third-party applications are patched in a timely fashion
  • Automate patch management process and control patch management from a central location without having to do it individually for each user and application

With patching organization should also prevent unauthorized programs/applications from running on any computer system.  It increases the attack surface as they are unmanaged, without proper patching/ updates and no proper configurations. To increase security, IT departments need to restrict the rights to unauthorized applications, and allow the usage of those that are authorized for business purposes, but in practice it is very challenging to identify unauthorized software in a large organization network. The real fact is that sometimes employee request for administrator privilege to download applications that they need to do their job. This means that they can also download any software that they might want to install and use. Nevertheless, the unauthorized or uncontrolled installation and use of such software by employees on business computers presents a real and growing threat. Below listed are some threat pertaining to unauthorized software:

  • Legal, compliance and security breaches
  • Corrupt files and destroyed or modified information
  • Compromise and loss of information
  • Hacker access and sabotaged systems

Security Measure:

  • Prepare software whitelist. Basically, you allow only those application/software on the list to run and block everything else. Also engage stakeholders because any actions that result in the blocking of some application or other communication previously permitted will almost certainly result in complaints or escalations.
  • Establish an approval committee that reviews new software addition requests
  • Restrict administrative privileges. End users should never be provided with administrative privileges by default and should not even have an option to elevate themselves to administrators unless required and properly audited.
  • Auditing and monitoring is essential to gain a visibility of what software is being
  • executed throughout the organization
  • Allow exception request. Even though usage of unauthorized software is not a good practise but there will always be exceptions where someone may require execution of an unapproved application for a critical and time-sensitive business need. A detailed policy is needed for such situations but this can vary depending on the level of senior leadership support and risk tolerance for an organization.

Although there are challenges to implement countermeasures for unpatched and unauthorized software but it can be accomplish with proper planning and synchronisation with stakeholders.

Authored by Tapasi Chavan

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