Patch management was challenging enough before the world was upended by a rapidly spreading pandemic. But with security teams working remotely, and employee-operated devices dispersed across large distances, quickly prioritizing and fixing critical vulnerabilities has become both more difficult and more important.

As the 2017 Equifax breach showed, delays in patching can result in a devastating data breach or malware infection. Then again, if security teams act too hastily and without a plan, they can potentially open up their corporate systems or employee devices to additional exploits due to incomplete patching or careless use of remote administration tools.

“In the immediate future, patch management concerns will extend far beyond the established, known, managed and curated networks into a potentially chaotic mix of uncontrolled system versions and devices of thousands of employees,” says Eric Welling, North American lead for the Accenture Security, Cyber Investigation and Forensics Response (CIFR) group. “The balance between functionality and security is a longstanding consideration, but the extra pressure from COVID-19 will require both agile implementation and a methodical approach to ensuring continuity while remaining secure.”

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