What is Virtual Patching and How It Is Helpful in Vulnerability Management?

virtual patching

Statistics point that known vulnerabilities in applications constitute the primary source of successful cyberattacks. According to Gartner’s prediction — 99% of successful cyberattacks will continue involving vulnerabilities known to corporate executives. The high severity flaws, which go unpatched for long period are highly prone to error and often impossible to defend from attackers. The most appropriate solution is patching — a kind of code rewriting to remediate software vulnerabilities in certain applications and operating systems.

Software patching focuses on resolving or fixing issues that affect functionality. These days, with the progress of more targeted and sophisticated threats that are happening in shorter cycles, the patching focus is changing. With consumer confidence, corporate’s reputations, and secrets at risk, the enterprise should recognize the need to address vulnerabilities at a faster pace. This race to patch known vulnerabilities brings forth an innovative approach called Virtual Patching.

What is Virtual Patching?

Virtual patching is a process of addressing security flaws immediately to shield them from being exploited and fixing the code later. Like the software patch provided by a vendor, deep security virtual patching protects against a certain exploit. However, the main difference, in this case, is the patching is deployed at the network level rather than on the machine itself. Virtual patching is something called proximity control because it blocks a threat before it exploits its intended target.

It serves as an emergency security tool that organizations can use to instantly address vulnerabilities on affected endpoints and servers.

In what scenarios are virtual patching appropriate and is it recommended way to obtain a faster fix for a flaw? — To find answers to quick questions keep reading this blog.

Why Do We Need Patching?

The most critical task that security teams struggle is how to safeguard their assets against existing and emerging vulnerabilities. Most malware exploits known vulnerabilities (CVE’s — Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures). These are vulnerabilities that organizations have a fix, but the code is still found to be flawed.

According to the 2020 Vulnerability Statistics Report by Edgescan, on average of 67.7% of organizations’ assets have at least one CVE. Here is CVE dispersing and clustering:

Image source: Edgescan

The most straightforward solution is to patch the system against flaws with a software patch developed to prevent possible misuse. For both externally and internally facing systems, detection of vulnerabilities and addressing them with patching is a must.

Even if a vulnerability is not a critical risk, it might be the point of an exploit for attackers. Frequent vulnerability detection and control over incoming and external traffic is core to enhance malware resilience.

How to Solve Patching Problems?

Software patching is both a solution for code flaw and a cause of frustration as it is an annoyance of the network admin’s workload. So why accurate and timely patching of vulnerable systems is important?

Patching a vulnerable system can take days, weeks, or even months, especially if there is an issue that patching might affect the app’s core functionalities.

There are some challenges which make patching even longer:

Cybercriminals are in a constant sprint to exploit discovered vulnerabilities before enterprises have a chance to defend. FireEye Mandiant Threat Intelligence Research suggests that most of the vulnerability exploitation happens before the issuance of the patch or within few days of the patch was issued.

The speed with which hackers exploit vulnerabilities highlights the necessity of patching as fast as possible. However, delay in patching means the enterprise is at risk of attacks, and the cybercriminals obtain all the details they need to exploit, which entails the following issues:

With the increased quantity of security vulnerabilities disclosed each year; it can be hard for enterprises with business constraints and limited resources to deploy patches as quickly as possible. Technologies like deep security virtual patching can aid this patching management process by shielding both known as well as unknown vulnerabilities.

Patch Vulnerabilities with Virtual Patching

Virtual patching involves implementing a layer of security policy, which prevents and intercept the exploitation of vulnerabilities. An effective virtual patching solution includes capabilities to inspect and block malevolent activity from web traffic, detect & prevent intrusions, prevent attacks on web applications, and adaptably deploy on the cloud, or physical environments. Virtual patching solutions give security administrators a chance to review, test as well as schedule official software patches without leaving the critical system at risk.

Unlike traditional patching, it enables a flaw to be fixed without touching its libraries, the OS, or even the device it is running on. It focuses on fixing an issue by changing or eliminating dangerous behavior by taking control of the inputs and outputs of web applications. They target traffic endeavoring that utilize a known vulnerability and actively interrupt and block the traffic before it exploits the target system.

Deep security virtual patching gives you the option to protect the apps without patching them. The virtual patching solutions are faster, doesn’t require application language programming, and controls the patch cycle without compromising security. All these happen without having to keep the production servers down, which means your business can stay up and running.

Circumstances where virtual patching solutions are critical

How Can Businesses Benefit from Virtual Patching?

Here’s how virtual patching solutions augment an enterprise’s existing cybersecurity management technology and vulnerability management policies:

Virtual Patching Tools

Deep Security virtual patching can be achieved by employing various tools including Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), Web Application Firewall (WAF), application layer filter, and web server plugin.

When selecting a tool for your virtual patching solutions, consider these listed features:

Among the virtual patching tools, the Web Application Firewall offers the most sustainable solution for virtual patching. Moreover, market leading WAF like AppTrana works well in securing your websites and applications. In addition to satisfying all the above criteria to implement virtual patching in no time, AppTrana ensures end-to-end, highly scalable, and easy to deploy cloud-based solution to protect your assets against known vulnerabilities and possible attacks.

The Closure

Undeniably, virtual patching is a valuable technique to obtain immediate protection against known vulnerabilities. To benefit from the virtual patching solutions, be conscious of public vulnerability disclosure, and perform your source code reviews and web application scanning for vulnerability assessments. Of course, virtual patching is an invaluable technique to respond to an event immediately, however, it is not an alternative technique to permanent patching. Virtual patching can only ensure reliable protection in the interim; you still need to deploy permanent patching whenever possible.

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Originally published at https://www.indusface.com.