Ransomware Counts on Patch Tuesday

By George Crump

Ransomware counts on Patch Tuesday to successfully infiltrate an organization. While there is nothing wrong with applying patches on Tuesday, it is which Tuesday the patch is applied that can open the door that ransomware plows through. Ideally, you want to apply the patch the next Tuesday after the release; doing so would eliminate the exploits that most ransomware and other cyber threats use to do their work.

The problem is organizations wait weeks or even months to apply patches. Why? Because the IT team needs to understand how the proposed patch will impact the rest of their environment. They don’t want to apply a patch that suddenly causes other currently working environments to fail.

Today’s infrastructure solutions must enable IT to vet and apply patches quickly and eliminate Patch Tuesday altogether. IT needs a solution that can address these patching challenges:

  1. Difficulty determining where the potential conflict is because of the number of vendors involved in delivering IT services.
  2. Difficulty in assembling and maintaining a lab environment to test patches.
  3. Difficulty rolling back a patch once it is deployed.
Ransomware Counts on Patch Tuesday

Eliminate Patch Tuesday and set yourself up for ransomware recovery success by attending our live TechTalk, “Creating a Ransomware Response Strategy,” this Thursday at 1:00 PM ET.

There are Too Many Vendors to Eliminate Patch Tuesday

One of the biggest challenges facing IT as they attempt to apply patches to prepare for the next ransomware attack is the complexity of the multi-vendor data center and this is why ransomware counts on patch Tuesday. While Hyperconverged Infrastructures (HCI) were supposed to make the multi-vendor data center easier to manage, they have the opposite effect. Traditional HCI is still a vertically layered stack of multiple software solutions. At a minimum, most HCI has software-defined storage (SDS), hypervisor (VMware/Hyper-V), software-defined networking, and software that protects the environment (backup and recovery).

Many environments are only one step down the software-defined path, running a legacy three-tier stack, virtualizing only compute. As a result, legacy data centers and even more “modern” HCI data centers are equally confusing when determining the impact of applying a patch.

Ultraconverged Infrastructure Simplifies Patch Reconciliation

VergeOS rotates the traditionally vertical IT stack into a tightly integrated linear plane that provides all infrastructure services (networking, hypervisor, storage, data protection) as a data center operating system within a singular software code base. We call this ultraconverged infrastructure (UCI), and it moves beyond legacy hyperconverged infrastructure to deliver greater efficiency and scalability at a significantly lower cost.

Reducing the IT stack to a singular, horizontal layer increases efficiency and scalability and simplifies the patching process. Updates for the entire infrastructure come from a single source, and because VergeOS is inherently highly-available, IT can apply patches and updates without disruption. VergeOS applies patches one node at a time, and workloads automatically move between nodes so that applications are unaffected.

You Need a Lab to Eliminate Patch Tuesday

Patches also come from operating systems and application vendors. Properly evaluating the impact of these patches is best done in a lab. IT organizations need a lab for patch testing and various other use cases. The problem is not just the cost to configure and maintain the lab but also making sure the lab has the same settings and data as the production environment. These requirements mean that most organizations don’t have a dedicated lab environment. When one is needed, they have to scramble to put something together. As a result, the lab is nothing like the production environment they are looking to simulate.

Virtual Data Centers: The Always Ready Lab

One of the critical capabilities of VergeOS is Virtual Data Centers (VDC). Virtual Data Centers are to physical data centers, what virtual machines (VM) are to physical servers, an encapsulation. Using another VergeOS capability, IOclone, IT professionals can, within milliseconds, create a space-efficient copy of their entire data center within.

Capturing the entire data center, including the data, networking configuration, storage policies, and application setups, is critical to ensuring that IT does patch verification against an exact replica of production. Since the copy is standalone and not dependent on the original, administrators can apply the patch without concern of impacting the production environment.

IT can implement a single VDC for its entire data center or subdivide it by application or workload. For example, a VergeOS administrator may create a VDC for Oracle, another for MS-SQL, and a “core” VDC for general-purpose VMs. Each VDC can be cloned hundreds of times, and those clones can be used as golden masters, backups, development, and patch verification.

IT Needs to Eliminate Patch Tuesdays AND Surprise Wednesdays

Even with the best testing, sometimes an errant patch slips through. Depending on the level of chaos it causes, IT may have to recover from the backup infrastructure completely. Recoveries from backup, especially large ones, are time-consuming, meaning IT may deal with the Wednesday surprise for the rest of the week. The problem is most infrastructure software is too inefficient to maintain its data protection points, typically traditional snapshots, for more than a few hours. As pointed out in this article, “VMware Storage Challenges,” this problem is especially apparent in VMware environments.

IOclone: Unlimited Clones and Retention

To make surprise Wednesdays less of a concern, IT needs the ability to retain backup copies for more than a few hours. Traditional backup software can meet this need, but the time and nuances in recovering an application with an errant patch are significant. IOclone has the entire state of the VM and the entire data center or workload. No rollback is needed; point to the last known good instance, and the application is running.

Get Ahead of Ransomware

Ransomware Counts on Patch Tuesday

Because ransomware counts on patch Tuesday, applying the latest patches is critical to staying ahead of ransomware. With VergeOS, IT can apply patches almost as soon as they are released without waiting for Tuesday. They can test application patches against a mirror image of their production environment. If an errant patch slips through, they can instantly point to the non-patched version.

Even with the improved patching capabilities within VergeOS, ransomware may still slip through because of user carelessness. Our IOfortify solution takes you the rest of the way by leveraging the hardened VergeOS, IOclone, and new detection capabilities to deliver rapid restoration from an attack. During our TechTalk, “Designing a Ransomware Response Strategy,” we will conduct a live demonstration of IOfortify in action. See if we can recover a VM under attack during the webinar.

Patch Comparison: Traditional Infrastructure Software vs. VergeOS

Rapid Patch RequirementTraditional Infrastructure SoftwareVergeOS
Determining Patch ImpactDifficult – Multiple vendors makes identifying potential conflicts time consumingEasy – One Vendor
Pre-deployment TestingDifficult – Hard to setup, maintain and pay for dedicated labEasy – Virtual Data Centers and Cloning can create “Instant labs.”
Patch RollbackHard – Recovering from a backup copy is very time consumingEasy – No rollback required, just point to pre-patched clone.

Further Reading

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