Back in 2017, the Equifax data breach made news headlines. As one of North America’s three major credit bureaus, Equifax housed tons of sensitive data related to its customers. Social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses and driver’s licence details were part of this data.

Notably, data related to over 143 million Equifax customers were compromised in this breach. But a lesser-known fact is that the vulnerability the hackers exploited could have been fixed easily with an available patch. Notably, a security patch to fix the loophole was available two months before this breach. Yet, Equifax failed to update its systems and suffered a reputation-eroding breach as a serious consequence. 

The Equifax incident shows how crucial software and security patch updates are. But most organizations and individuals either postpone updates or ignore them completely. 

What is a security patch? 

Companies often release software with bugs and security vulnerabilities. But it does not take long before the developers are notified of a security loophole. Once a vulnerability is discovered, the engineers develop a fix and release it to the software’s users. This update is known as a security patch. Patches mitigate vulnerabilities in operating systems, applications and embedded systems. These patches play a key role in securing your digital assets and the environment in which they operate. 

No newly developed software can be perfectly designed. There are always hidden bugs and holes that make their way to the final release. So, companies release a large number of patches over the lifetime of their software or operating systems. But these patches are useless unless the users choose to apply them; not applying the patch is where Equifax went wrong. 

When a user does not make time to apply a patch, gaping security holes remain for hackers to exploit. 

Why do we need security patches? 

There are four key reasons patch management is important. 

  • Security

Cybersecurity threats are projected to cost the global economy a whopping $10.5 trillion by 2025. Also, cybercrimes are up by 300%  during the COVID pandemic. Applying patches as and when required can help mitigate many of these threats. It fixes vulnerabilities, plugs security holes and fills all the gaps, giving you a better shot at keeping your systems safe. 

  • Features

These updates do not merely address security issues. They also add new features and enhance existing ones. Patches ensure that your software product has the best features in its market segment. So, you stay competitive by applying patches as and when they are released.

  • System Uptime

Some software can also have internal glitches. These glitches can keep your product from running smoothly, forcing unwarranted downtime. Downtime does not just hurt your business but also damages your reputation and creates a backlog of work. So, updating patches is necessary to avoid these challenges. 

  • Compliance 

Regulatory bodies update compliance laws often in response to newer threats. These bodies require software to be compliant at all times. Patch management is a critical process here. It enables organizations to keep their software and operating systems compliant with the latest regulations. 

How do security patch updates help organizations? 

Organizations can reap great benefits by updating security patches on time. 

  • Firms often work with sensitive data. A data breach can compromise a firm’s reputation and its customer records. It is vital to maintain the highest level of cybersecurity, which entails proper patch management. 
  • Companies looking to build long-term relationships with their clients need their systems to be up and running at all times. Software patches do just that. 
  • By ignoring patch updates, organizations also stand the risk of being non-compliant. Non-compliance can attract heavy regulatory fines. 

Security patches act like protective layers for your software and operating systems. They patch up security gaps and resolve bugs present in operational software. Ignoring security patches can invite more cybersecurity trouble from hackers looking to leverage any weaknesses in your digital systems. That is why it is crucial to keep your systems updated with the latest security patches.