Keeping Tabs On Patches
Let’s face it; we all have to deal with patches. Everyone from an IT systems administrator to your grandma has to face the challenges of patches. Whether you have a home computer that you use to browse the web, a phone that you occasionally check email from, or 10,000 enterprise desktops spread across three continents, you're dealing with patches. Regardless of your situation, you need to be able to answer two basic questions:
- Which patches are missing?
- Which patches have been successfully installed?
If you only have one computer in the house, it probably annoys you to some degree when it’s time to apply patches, indicating that you are in fact missing patches. This answers the first question above, but the operating systems themselves have few measures for success. There are many situations that cause patches to fail, or leave vulnerable software behind after an update, that can easily be missed by the average user. Your so-called "smart-phone" is even worse. Since most users do not connect their phones to their computers, or the carrier is blocking operating system updates, you may never be able to answer the first question (I guess that's one reason why RIM maintains a prominent presence in the enterprise, as they answer both questions very well with respect to Blackberry users in your environment). Never knowing that you even require patches to be installed is a big problem, as well as knowing if they even applied successfully.
A Much Larger Problem
Enterprises with 10,000 or more desktops exacerbate the problem of patch tracking. With so many devices that require patches, things are bound to go wrong! Lately I've been using dashboards in Tenable's SecurityCenter, and thanks to Tenable CEO/CTO Ron Gula, I have some interesting SecurityCenter 4.2 "dashboards" to help me track patches. Here's just one example:
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