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What Is Virtual Patching?

What Is Virtual Patching

Hitesh J

Statistically, vulnerabilities in applications lead to successful cyberattacks. Gartner predicted that almost 99 percent of successful cyberattacks will consistently involve vulnerabilities known to corporate executives. Patch management has become a daunting task for organizations adopting cloud, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

However, not having patched the application for a long time can lead to errors and often comprises low or no chance for immediate redemption. According to the 2016 reports, 60 percent of breaches were due to enterprises not having a security patch implemented for their application. It leads to thousands and millions of dollars of losses, and even enterprises have to pay hefty amounts as fines to authorities.

Hence, patching is the only solution that can protect the software from such vulnerabilities. It involves rewriting of code to remunerate software vulnerabilities in software applications and operating systems. It is a quick repair job for a piece of programming that is developed and distributed as a replacement for compiled code.

Moreover, when we talk about patching, Virtual Patching is considered the best patching software. So, let’s know further what virtual patching is and how it is effective to the organization.

What is Virtual Patching?

The short-term emergency implementation of security policy is known as Virtual Patching. It is implemented to address the security flaws immediately after software exploitation is detected. Also, it improves the existing patch management by rectifying lately discovered vulnerabilities on affected servers and endpoints.

It identifies transactions with the help of the security enforcements layer and prevents spiteful traffic from reaching the vulnerable web application. Thus, it effectively secures the application from exploitation without even improvising the secure code of the application.

It is similar to the patching software provided by the vendors. However, vendors provide patching that is utilized at the network level instead of the machine. On the other hand, Virtual Patching uses proximity control to block threats before damaging its intended targets.

Virtual Patching is used as an emergency security tool that detects vulnerabilities on affected endpoints and servers.

Importance of virtual patching

Organizations use technologies such as Virtual Patching to rescue during crucial situations. They tend to eliminate the attacks against vulnerable web applications. They also provide the organization with sufficient time to examine and install a stable and reliable patch relevant to the existing vulnerabilities.

Often these vulnerabilities are reported, exposed, or discovered, which becomes a race against time for the enterprises. But, cyber attackers find it as an opportunity and attack vulnerable web applications or software.

Therefore, Virtual Patching is highly significant because of the following points:

  • Enterprises can implement Virtual Patching effortlessly. However, it is installed only on fewer locations rather than on every host.
  • It maintains the regular patch cycle of the enterprise.
  • It saves them time and money organizations spend on immediate patching of vulnerabilities.
  • It protects the systems that are highly available and cannot be used offline.
  • It tends to eliminate risk until the patch supplied by the vendor is released, examined, and applied.

These points make Virtual Patching the most captivating tool. In addition, it offers an auxiliary layer against vulnerabilities.

How can you benefit from virtual patching?

Organizations generally apply their businesses to fasten and automate the functions for their employees and customers. But, unfortunately, they forget to examine the apps and their security during the process, thereby making the system vulnerable to exploitation.

The primary target of the cyber attackers is the business data, which is stored in the web apps of the back-end systems. Hence, it makes patching significant to mitigate those attacks for the organization.

Here’s how Virtual Patching benefits you and your organization:

  • Virtual Patching protects crucial mission components that remain online. Hence,  operations remain uninterrupted since they are with operation patches in an emergency.
  • The first and most significant benefit of Virtual Patching is that it provides the IT team sufficient time to access the code flaws and text and apply required patches.
  • Since Virtual Patching diminishes the requirement for emergency patches, the task becomes simpler to handle. In addition, further security validation allows you to update the security policy rather than adjusting the application code. With simplification in the process, organizations tend to respond to the vulnerabilities within a few hours.
  • It delivers instant protection from the vulnerable components involved in the IT infrastructure.
  • It assists businesses in meeting the timelines requirements like the ones imposed by General Data Protection Recommendation (GDPR) and Payment Card Industry (PCI).

Use virtual patching to patch vulnerabilities

Virtual Patching encompasses the implementation of a security policy layer to prevent and intercept the exploitation of vulnerabilities. Virtual Patching can inspect and block malevolent activities from web applications, protect the application from attackers, actively uses cloud or physical environment, and detect and prevent intrusions. In addition, they provide security administers with the chance to review, test, and schedule official software patches without leaving the crucial system at risk.

It is immensely distinct from traditional patching. It can fix the flaws without even touching its libraries, the operating system, and the device it is working on. Instead, it changes or diminishes dangerous behavior by controlling the input and outputs of web applications.

They specifically target traffic to utilize known vulnerabilities and then block and interrupt this traffic before exploiting the targeted system. Having Virtual Patching with deep security provides you with the alternatives to shield the apps without patching them. It is one of the fastest software that does not require programming language and compromising security to handle the patch cycle. Furthermore, you can use it without keeping the server down. Thus, you can keep running your business even if the Virtual Patching is working.

Businesses should use Virtual Patching in specific scenarios like:

  • For example, when an organization wants to cover a critical level of vulnerabilities, Virtual Patching can deliver the short-term stop-gap solution until they find permanent patching software.
  • It can also be used for assets that need thorough planning and some time to employ permanent patching software. These apps usually involve machines running critical systems and pipeline monitoring systems that s significant for leading infrastructures like hydroelectric dams and electrical grids.
  • A permanent patch is first checking whether it can trigger new issues before it is deployed. The validation of this patch creates delays. So, deep security Virtual Patching is used during this warm stage to prevent known vulnerabilities and exploitations.

Virtual patching tools

One can use various tools of deep security Virtual Patching. These tools mainly include Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), Web Application Firewall (WAF), application layer filter, and web server plugins.

Nonetheless, it is essential to consider the following points in mind before choosing the Virtual Patching tool:

  • The tool should use the HTML and HTTP translator to understand particular protocol features like the content type, XML payload, and much more.
  • To keep the HTTP connective alive, it should correctly match all the requests and replies.
  • The tool should not entirely rely on signatures. Instead, it should provide features to implement sturdy rules and complex logic to define the test.
  • They should comprise anti-evasion capabilities, i.e., character encoding and data sanitization.
  • They can separate the HTTP streams into headers, parameters, and uploaded files.
  • They should identify every element distinctively for content, length, and count.

Out of these Virtual Patching tools, the Web Application Firewall is the most sustainable solution. WAF, like AppTrana, appropriately secures your websites and applications. It satisfies all the criteria mentioned above to implement Virtual Patching within minutes or hours. Furthermore, it also ensures end-to-end, highly scalable, and effortless deploy cloud-based solutions to prevent your assets from known vulnerabilities and possible attacks.

Conclusion

Nowadays, it is essential to keep up with the security flaws in complex web apps and software that can be taxing. In these circumstances, Virtual Patching proves to be relatively fundamental. It acts as a life-saver by patching vulnerabilities and eliminating risks.

It offers multiple benefits, unlike traditional patching cycles that include enormous time, effort, and money. Also, they can be used in places in a few minutes or hours and even consist of minimal costs.

Organizations should also include Virtual Patching in security toolkits and other security tools like firewalls, IPS, etc., to defend against evolving threats and attacking techniques.

However, you should also remember that Virtual Patching is just an emergency setup that provides you some time to look for the permanent patching solution. Therefore, it is not a real solution.