Virtual Patching Solutions


Typically, virtual patching solutions describes implementing short-term security patches to avoid unauthorized attacks on already identified security vulnerabilities before the final release of a new version. In theory, this form of patching enables administrators to maintain a working system until they are able to update a more comprehensive software solution with a corresponding signature file. Some programs may refuse to run under a virtual version of a patch because the signature file may not have been modified since the last reboot or installation. In such cases, the affected application must be manually reloaded.

A variety of issues can affect applications that utilize virtual patches. For instance, some operating systems do not support virtual patches and instead execute the regular software version. This means that a user may be able to establish a temporary security patch via an alternate method, but the application will most likely fail to run under that version. Administrators may also disable certain system services or applications that execute in kernel mode while running virtual patches. Such measures can create a safety risk and may cause a security vulnerability.

In some cases, attackers may exploit a security vulnerability even if no patch is present. A deep security virtual patching solution addresses these issues by resolving the issue before any software patch is installed. One way to determine whether a deep security virtual patching solution is required is to examine the software library of an affected program. If there are no security related files or symbols, this indicates that an update was automatically applied after installation. If there are several such files, it is most likely that an attacker gained access to a privileged process without the protection of a virtual patch.

Vulnerability scanning using a virtual patching solution can also detect known vulnerability issues. Common indicators include missing security policy enforcement, runtime library corruption or missing ASIO DLL files. Virtual machine patches can be downloaded from the Internet and install with an update. Most vendors provide full details about their product and the steps required to install their products. Once the installation is complete, any known vulnerabilities can be automatically patched.

A fully patched system will run without any known vulnerability. However, remote servers or networks may still contain unpatched systems. When networked computers share common components, an unpatched server will allow attackers to obtain persistence privileges. Once granted such privileges, a remote server hacker can remotely control the operations of a targeted network. Since physical access is required for attackers to gain physical access, patching tools are often used to bypass network security policies. A virtual patch will prevent such attacks since only an update is required.

Many corporate environments utilize virtual patching because it requires minimal training and can be accomplished quickly. It may not be feasible for every employee to remember and execute updates on all of the machines on their network. Virtual patches can be scheduled to run on pre-determined time intervals, and only require one command line switch to activate. Once these patches are successfully applied, all machines will begin to execute normally.

The benefit of using virtual patching is that it will prevent the downtime of several days or weeks. Since these types of issues are so short in duration, business organizations can experience significant cost savings as well. These issues can be especially difficult to resolve when shared hardware or workstations are involved. The majority of businesses have dedicated computer servers, but these servers can experience problems from time to time. When these issues occur, the cost of repairing the issue will exceed the cost of purchasing a new machine, which can make virtual patching solutions very appealing to many different enterprises.

Enterprises may wonder why they should consider virtual patching if they already have fully patched servers. If a vulnerability is found within a virtual server or application, then patching can be performed on the compromised machines. However, most businesses only utilize fully patched solutions in an effort to reduce the overall impact of vulnerabilities. By running virtual patching solutions in place before the detection of an issue, the engineer or IT professional will be able to detect and patch the vulnerability immediately. Since these issues are typically not discovered during a normal scan or troubleshooting session, many corporations are finding that these types of proactive security measures are saving them a lot of money.

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