Security and Patching Struggles

A couple weeks ago we had a huge security issue with the WannaCry ransomware racing across the world. I was out of the office, and mostly offline, so I was a bit out of touch. However, many organizations were affected, and I’m sure many infrastructure people were scrambling to patch and protect vulnerable systems, possibly even restore affected systems. I certainly hope that most (or all) organizations didn’t pay any ransoms. For the future, my view is it’s better to lose a little data and restore systems than pay ransoms.
I can remember when we got patches at random times, as vendors wanted to provide more functionality or finally had enough bugs fixed to release a patch. Sysadmins struggled to deploy these patches, being out of practice from the infrequency and struggling with non-standardized ways of applying updates. There was also the concern about the quality of patches, many of which introduced more bugs and issues. In the Windows world, I found many companies wanting to wait until an SP2 was released before applying, or even upgrading, many systems.
That changed, with many companies moving to regular patches, and standard ways of applying, or even slipstreaming, patches easily onto machines. I welcomed the Microsoft Patch Tuesdays, as this provided a regular release, an expectation, and both admins and users became comfortable with the idea of regular patches. I haven’t loved the auto patches in Windows 10, but I find myself agreeing with Troy Hunt that we should just be patching. In an organization you may want someone to be responsible, but for home users, just patch.
And, by the way, vendors, you need to do more work, and be more responsive to any issues that come up from patches. Your quality issues lead to greater security issues.
If you want to ready about the WannaCry issue, there’s a good general post, as well as some guidance from the SQL Server perspective. If you haven’t patched, that’s something you should do ASAP, and while you’re at it, be sure you have the latest security patches for SQL Server applied. I’ve got a series of Build Lists at SQLServerCentral, one for each version. I’m still nervous about applying Cumulative Updates too quickly, but I certainly would download and have them ready, perhaps applying each a month late once once the early adopters have had a chance to report any major problems.
Patching is a reality for the modern software world. We get regular patches for applications, but our core infrastructure (including servers, desktops, and various devices) also need patches to the OS and platforms. There’s a balance between ensuring stability with known softwre versions and keeping up with patches to prevent problems. We need to find a balance, which is probably different for each organization, and re-evaluate periodically if we are updating an an appropriate level. I lean towards fewer patches when I can, but I always want to keep up with security patches. We never know when someone will take advantage of those.
Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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