As mentioned in previous posts, taking the time to patch for vulnerabilities and minimize your attack surface is key to good cyber hygiene. And, key to understanding the effectiveness of your patch management program is knowing what metrics to measure for that indicate how well your patch management system is performing. Keeping tabs on specific patch metrics can go a long way in benefiting your organization.
Patch metrics can include the number of devices on your network, inventory of the operating systems and software on each device, what patches have failed and much more. This wealth of information isn't just idle data; these patch metrics can help organizations see their weak spots and stay ahead of potential threats.
By tracking patch metrics, you can gain another level of insight into your infrastructure. You can track the coverage, compliance, speed and impact of your patch management infrastructure. This extra visibility lets IT and security professionals know what's working and what needs to be fixed – and, what might need to be changed entirely.
Patch Metric Basics
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are three specific types of measures regarding patch metrics that organizations should be concerned with:
- Implementation measures, which indicate the progress in deploying security programs, specific security controls and other related policies and processes.
- Effectiveness/Efficiency measures, which are used for tracking the implementation, operations and outcomes of program-level processes and system-level security controls.
- Impact measures, which demonstrate the effect information security has on an organization and its goals.
Patch metrics can (and should) include all three types of these measures. Implementation measures can include information such as what proportion of the organization's devices are being covered by current patch management solutions, while measures of efficiency would cover information on patch compliance, failed patches and similar data.
Patch metrics can be used to evaluate both products and staff. When conducting patch metrics specifically aimed at assessing patch management products, looking at performance indicators is especially important so you can be sure your tools are working as intended.
Why Patch Metrics Matter
Patching is important – and knowing how effective your patch management strategies are is essential to staying on top of your patching game. Key performance indicators for patch management products include:
Patch metrics should include measurements of the number of systems a patch is going to cover. Measuring coverage allows you to see what's being protected by your patch management product and what's not. Leveraging a patch management tool that provides full visibility of all your corporate endpoints, no matter the location or domain, is essential to ensuring you’ve got a true view of your vulnerable attack surface.
Speed is another important metric: Knowing what percentage of devices you can patch in a given amount of time is essential to understanding your organization's risk level, especially when there is a critical vulnerability to be addressed. Time is of the essence when it comes to vulnerability remediation, and knowing how fast your system can be patched helps security professionals identify what patches and systems should be prioritized.
Compliance measurements enable you to know what devices have been patched and which ones are still vulnerable. Being able to see what's working and what's not is also key to keeping your network secure. And with impact measurements, you can see how much downtime there is when you deploy a patch. This metric can help you ensure that your patch management solutions are working for your organization instead of burdening it.
Together, these metrics give security professionals a picture of how well their patch management technologies are working, and what areas need improvement. Keeping tabs on your patch metrics is key to having a strong patch management system. By measuring your patch performance, problem areas within your system can be detected before a vulnerability gets exploited.
Patch metrics are valuable to organizations of any size that are looking to tighten up their security and keep their patching game on point.
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