Security vulnerabilities are one of the most important gateways for cybercriminals, yet companies often take days or weeks to close them. The reason is usually vulnerability management that offers too little automation and takes up too many network resources – especially with remote work, this is a major problem. Solutions with peer-to-peer (P2P) technology provide a remedy.
Few things make companies as vulnerable as end devices with outdated software. After all, cybercriminals prefer to exploit security loopholes in operating systems and applications to compromise computers. Therefore, one of the basic IT tasks is to regularly check all end devices for vulnerabilities and quickly install the available updates and patches.
But that’s exactly what many companies find surprisingly difficult – they often take days or weeks to seal already known leaks and are highly vulnerable during this time. In the new world of work, the risk is particularly high because end devices are not always located within the well-protected corporate network but also in less secure home networks or in public WLANs of cafés and hotels.
Companies are often thwarted by vulnerability management solutions that are no longer up to date because they require a lot of manual work and place an enormous burden on infrastructures. These tools scan the end devices over the network, which takes up quite a bit of bandwidth when there are thousands of systems.
What’s more, they usually only provide a list of the vulnerabilities discovered, which employees then have to work through manually. IT specialists, who should actually be devoting themselves to important transformation projects, are then busy assessing the risk of individual security vulnerabilities for the company, checking the availability of updates and patches, and initiating their installation. This is a very time-consuming task in view of the growing number of end devices and the large number of applications that employees now use in their day-to-day work.
In addition, the updates are distributed via central update servers and cause large network loads that can hinder business data traffic. As a result, many companies take care of vulnerabilities only irregularly or postpone the rollout of updates and patches to the nighttime hours.
The Pitfalls of The New Working World
Home office and remote work have also made vulnerability management even more challenging. For example, if employees use many cloud services, they rarely need to connect to the corporate network, so companies can no longer reliably reach remote endpoints to perform vulnerability scans and update software. But even if they can reach the devices, all scans and updates run over their WAN and VPN connections – even small data packets can then clog the lines because they have to be delivered to thousands of systems.
Unlike the corporate network, companies cannot remotely wake up computers in home offices or other off-site locations, so they must perform vulnerability scans and software updates while employees are working on the systems.
In particular, downloading update packages can take much longer than before because of narrow bandwidths at many public and some private Internet access points – and can also be more easily interrupted when employees shut down computers during breaks or at the end of work, or when connections are unstable during a train ride, for example. With many classic vulnerability management solutions, companies simply do not know whether the updated packages have been successfully downloaded and installed.
P2P Solutions Relieve the Burden on Infrastructures
To avoid such problems, modern vulnerability management solutions connect a company’s end devices to form a P2P network. This allows the systems to exchange information about vulnerabilities as well as available updates and patches. Initially, these are still provided centrally via a server or a cloud repository, but as soon as some end devices have obtained them from there, distribution takes place within the P2P network. In principle, it is enough for a single end device to have downloaded the data – all the others receive it from it or later from other devices that have already been supplied.
Ultimately, vulnerability management in this way places hardly any load on WAN and VPN connections, so companies have to maintain lower bandwidths. They can also reduce the number of their update servers and benefit from a very robust update infrastructure with a much larger number of update sources than before. Unlike classic solutions, a growing stock of end devices no longer requires investment in additional servers but only makes the entire infrastructure more powerful and more fail-safe.
Automatic Installation of Patches
Within the P2P network, each end device is equipped with an agent that scans the system for vulnerabilities based on the downloaded security checks and automatically closes any leaks found by installing updates and patches. The agent ensures that downloads are completed or resumed later, even with poor Internet connections, so that the system is guaranteed to be updated to the latest software version. As a result, solutions using P2P technology are much more reliable than traditional tools; typically, they provide clear real-time dashboards detailing detected vulnerabilities and the status of patching efforts.
For both local scans and the provision of security checks and update packages to other devices, vulnerability management uses only unneeded computing, storage, and network resources. All activities thus run unobtrusively in the background and do not interfere with employees’ work. The P2P network is even so cleverly organized that data is only exchanged with neighboring end devices to which there is a good connection. The systems continuously monitor the traffic and dynamically adjust the path of the data packets.
The scans directly on the end devices allow tens of thousands of systems to be checked for vulnerabilities in parallel in just a few minutes. Since the updates and patches are then applied immediately, companies with P2P-based vulnerability management significantly minimize the time window available to cybercriminals for attacks – and thus their personal security and compliance risk.