In an era of big data, compliance with security regulations is more important than ever. Websites, service organizations and mobile and “smart” devices collect and store massive amounts of data on a daily basis, but the software solutions dealing with this information are subject to vulnerabilities.
Government agencies are responding to the increasing threats with stricter security regulations for all companies, organizations and institutions handling or storing sensitive information.
If your business deals with personal, financial or healthcare data, you need to have a patch management plan to ensure security and maintain compliance with changing regulations.
What’s Happening in the World of Cybersecurity
As the amount of data companies collect continues to increase, security concerns become more prevalent. Security vulnerabilities are on the rise, increasing 14 percent between 2016 and 2017 to almost 20,000 known risks. Around 16.6 percent of vulnerabilities were listed as “highly critical” in 2017, representing a significant threat to the data stored and managed by businesses using the affected software.
Although it’s not possible to completely eliminate all weaknesses in any system, software companies are aware of the problems and release patches for approximately 86 percent of all vulnerabilities on the same day the issues come to light. It’s up to businesses and organizations to be on the lookout for these patches and implement them as soon as possible to avoid breaches.
Some of the biggest breaches of all time show the extent of the damage done when companies fail to identify vulnerabilities and apply the proper fixes in time:
- The 2014 JP Morgan Chase breach affected 76 million records
- Anthem’s 2015 breach exposed 80 million records
- Heartland Payment Systems had a lengthy breach from 2003 to 2008, resulting in 130 million compromised records
- 145 million eBay records were put at risk in 2014
- Approximately 160 million records from various U.S. banks and companies were compromised during a breach spanning seven years between 2005 and 2012
In light of these massive intrusions into consumer privacy, governments around the world are responding with updated security laws. The most recent change was the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of rules applying to all businesses handling data from customers in the European Union. Regulations are likely to become even more strict as time goes on and new vulnerabilities come to light. To avoid being fined for noncompliance, your company needs a plan to ensure the latest patches are applied as they become available.
5 Ways to Ensure Compliance with Data Privacy Regulations
From these examples, it’s clear why your company needs a patch management program regardless of the industry in which you operate. Leaving your systems vulnerable to breaches not only undermines compliance but also puts your reputation with clients and customers on the line. Prevent costly errors and preserve your company’s integrity with these five tactics for better compliance.
1. Maintain an Accurate Inventory of Your Software Assets
Changes in technology, company structure and business tasks require new software, and it’s easy to lose track of how many different systems you have in place. However,
compliance requires visibility so that you always know what programs collect, use and store personal data and how the data is being managed.
Routine audits of software assets increase visibility and awareness, allowing your IT department to keep track of potential security risks and identify programs with available patches. Conducting these audits also reveals where solutions can be upgraded or consolidated to improve performance and minimize risk.
2. Be Vigilant About Tracking and Responding to Alerts on Your Software Assets
If you’re not monitoring for updates across all software platforms, you could be out of compliance without knowing it. The increased visibility you develop by conducting software audits shows what you need to monitor and the best way to respond to potential threats. This usually involves downloading and applying patches as they become available, but you may need to perform other remediation tasks depending on the regulations with which your company must comply. Waiting to implement the appropriate fixes leaves systems vulnerable to attack.
3. Run Vulnerability Assessment Against All Systems Frequently
Thousands of known vulnerabilities have the potential to affect your systems, and it’s important to know where your company is susceptible. Vulnerability assessments are logical companions to software asset audits, bringing to light potential problems requiring immediate attention to prevent a breach. Making these assessments a routine part of your security plan allows for faster detection of weak areas and immediate application of the proper fixes.
4. Share Data Between Systems and Collaborate
Every IT professional in your company must be able to access and understand data available regarding vulnerabilities and remediation. Open communication between departments allows freedom to collaborate on solutions to known problems. The faster the weak areas in your systems are detected and fixed, the lower the risk for a breach and the easier it is to remain in compliance with regulations. Use a tool providing each department with a customized view of the latest information and allowing for the creation of tickets to expedite the remediation process.
5. Supplement with Additional Research and Statistics if Necessary
The Software Vulnerability Manager from Flexera keeps you informed regarding the latest patches available for all your software assets. With this program as part of your solutions set, you can more easily identify and implement patches as they become available. Automating the process leaves you free to focus on other areas of your business while remaining compliant. Flexera’s platform also includes access to up-to-date vulnerability intelligence information your IT department can use to identify and remediate the latest threats in a timely manner.
Proper compliance requires ongoing diligence in all areas of your IT department and open communication between IT and the rest of the company. Familiarize yourself with the regulations pertaining to your industry, and make sure all employees understand what’s necessary to stay in compliance. Flexera’s solutions, including automated patching, can help you respond more quickly to vulnerabilities, minimize risk and stay in compliance with changing security laws.