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Untitled Document Security vulnerability management is one of the fastest growing segments of the security software market. Leading analyst firm IDC forecasts that this market will reach US $3 billion by 2009, fueled by customers' needs associated with executing security policies, dealing with regulatory compliance measurements and audits, risk reporting and patching.

This year kicked off with yet another security conundrum for IT managers. The identification of WMF Windows vulnerability just a few days into January left IT managers with no patch in sight for days and widespread discussion of an exploit in the wild. The answer for some businesses came from a Russian security researcher who published an "unofficial" patch on the Internet to fix the vulnerability. Because the WMF exploit was so critical, Microsoft bowed to customer pressure and released the patch out of cycle five days before its regularly scheduled monthly Patch Tuesday update, thus breaking its regular patch cycle for the first time since its inception.

The impact of this potential threat questioned the metrics of patch policies and called for IT staff to instill flexibility into their patching processes. Clearly building temporary fixes or configuration lockdown changes for an emergency situation will be essential in 2006 and considering all options, including third party remediation - provided they are verified and tested first by a trusted vendor - is a must. However, given that businesses took an average of one month to deploy new critical security patches in 2005, the patching issue in spite of zero-day threats is still proving to be a challenging task for the time-constraint IT department all around. In reality, the lack of rapid response capability within IT is likely the largest risk factor faced by larger organizations.

To this end, keeping up with software patches to ensure all systems are up to date and patched is a must for comprehensive and ongoing protection. This combined with continually assessing security needs and taking proactive measures to maintaining an effective patch management process in a systematic and timely way across the enterprise will be critical to network security. The most effective approach to achieving a successful IT security management program is to define company-centric patch management best practices in order to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities that exist within an organization and then to employ metrics over time to measure and increase the effectiveness of that program over time.


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