8/23/2013
05:39 PM
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Nearly One-Fifth Of Enterprise Operating Systems Not Fully Patched

Less than half of organizations run malicious code execution prevention tools, Rapid7 survey finds



One in five IT professionals say they either have not fully patched their organizations' endpoint operating systems -- or they aren't sure whether the machines are up-to-date.

A fully patched operating system is the "minimum bar" for any organization, says Matt Hathaway, senior product manager with Rapid7, which today released results of a survey of 600 IT pros on their enterprises' endpoint security practices. Some 83 percent say their endpoint OSes are fully patched.

"Seventeen percent [with unpatched OSes] is unsettling as we really consider patching your OS to be the minimum bar for an organization's patching process," Hathaway says. "Our assumption is that this can be explained by the challenge of getting broad organizational buy-in for a consistent patching process and a disconnect between the security and IT teams. In some cases, availability is prioritized over patching: for example in the healthcare sector, where treatment is 24/7."

Another red flag from the survey: Fifty-four percent don't or don't know whether they run code execution prevention tools on their machines (think Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit). Of that group, 30 percent don't run these tools, and 24 percent don't know if they do.

Even though Microsoft regularly mentions EMET in its security blog, security pros still don't seem to be in the know much about it or its benefits, Hathaway says. "Additionally, a lot of our customers have stated that they never bothered implementing [EMET] 3.5 tech preview or the 4.0 beta because they were waiting for a final release. So the long lull may very well explain why our survey results show that EMET is not broadly used only a few months after the 4.0 final release."

The good news is that 96 percent of organizations run antivirus on their endpoints, and 90 percent say their email systems are configured to block suspicious attachments. That means a large number of businesses are employing tools to stop malware from hitting their endpoints, Hathaway says.

Around 16 percent don't require their users to select complex passwords that expire at regular intervals, and 2 percent don't know whether their organizations have this policy. "The fact that only 81 percent of respondents enforce complex, expiring passwords makes us question whether the industry debate over the effectiveness of passwords is being misconstrued to mean they are a waste of time," Rapid7's Hathaway says.

The full Rapid7 endpoint security survey is available here (PDF) for download.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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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