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7/27/2009
03:46 PM
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Nearly Half Of Companies Lack A Formal Patch Management Process

Microsoft-sponsored Project Quant survey finds patch management expensive, immature

An open initiative for building a metrics model to measure the cost of patch management found that one-fourth of organizations don't test patches when they deploy them, and nearly 70 percent don't measure how well or efficiently they roll out patches, according to survey results released today.

Project Quant, a project for building a framework for evaluating the costs of patch management and optimizing the process, today also rolled out Version 1 of its metrics model. Project Quant is an open, community-driven, vendor-neutral model that initially began with financial backing from Microsoft.

"Based on the survey and the additional research we performed during the project, we realized that despite being one of the most fundamental functions of IT, patch management is still a relatively immature, inconsistent, and expensive practice. The results really reinforced the need for practical models like Quant," says Rich Mogull, founder of Securosis, and one of the project leaders of the initiative.

The survey of around 100 respondents was voluntary; participation was solicited mainly via metrics and patch management organizations, so the organizers say the respondents were most likely organizations that take patch management seriously: "The corollary to this interpretation is that we believe the broader industry is probably LESS mature in their patch management process than reflected here," the report says.

Even so, more than 40 percent of them have either no patch management process or an informal one in place. And 68 percent said they don't have a metric for measuring how well they deploy patches, such as the time it takes them to deploy a patch, etc. One-fourth said they don't do any testing before they roll out a patch, and 40 percent rely on user complaints to validate the success of a patch, according to the survey.

And more than 50 percent don't measure adherence to policy, including compliance when it comes to patching.

"It's clear we have a very long way to go on something we all assume is a boring, basic task. Considering where the bad guys are shifting attacks to, we desperately need better methods and means of keeping our systems up to date," Mogull says. "My hope is that Quant can help fill this gap."

Patch management for workstation and server operating systems was one of the most mature processes. "What's most interesting is the variation of maturity [of patch management] across platforms. Not that this was totally unexpected, but the least mature areas of patching seem to correlate almost directly with the fastest-growing areas of attacks," Mogull says, such as device drivers, database servers, business application servers, and networking hardware and software.

Meanwhile, Project Quant's survey is ongoing, so if you'd like to participate, visit this link.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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