Conflicting business requirements are a normal occurrence in any organization, but for IT companies, they’re practically built in. Different roles have different requirements and processes that they achieve within the four walls of their departments. And yet, there are new cybersecurity challenges for teams to overcome being discovered daily.
However, when projects move forward to security or patches and new updates are released, it can be a central cause of conflict between two of the most critical factors in IT: availability and security.
Availability vs. security
Operations teams always have availability as a top priority. Their team’s purpose is to provide stable uptime so that operations can run without interruptions. On the other hand, security teams are solely focused on creating a secure environment. One can’t perform well over the long term without the other; however, both teams have different goals in mind.
As a result, there is often conflict between operations and security. Enablement is undoubtedly easier without keeping security in mind. But with security often at the end of the iterative development process, it can cause friction between the two. And without collaboration, organizations could end up compromising on availability or security without optimized communication between them.
For example, a security team might make a demand that systems need to go down for patching with little warning. This will ensure a secure environment but will reduce the overall availability. Similarly, availability goals like 99.999% uptime can require numerous servers, data, and services that will call for continuous monitoring and protection.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main causes behind the conflict between availability and security in IT environments:
Because of the innate conflicting values between availability and security, there is also friction when choosing best practices to follow when teams are combined. For example, SecOps combines multiple teams with specific duties, goals, and responsibilities. There is no question that everyone wins when they can work together in balance, but their conflicting values make it especially difficult to agree on workflows and best practices.
For example, when DevOps teams think about vulnerability patching, they think of it in terms of downtime and disruptions that cause problems and inconveniences for users. That’s why they often turn to regularly scheduled downtime in an attempt to prioritize security.
However, maintenance windows and scheduled downtime can’t result in complete patching every time. Network updates are not released according to your organization’s timetable. And hackers certainly won’t wait until your next security update to launch an attack.
Deciding on how often to patch and how quickly to respond when known vulnerabilities are released is just the beginning of the issues between availability and security. And sometimes, reducing risk is more complicated than running an update or patching a specific vulnerability.
For example, some vulnerabilities occur at the programming language level. These vulnerabilities impact all of the apps written with the affected language. Sometimes operations and security teams are oblivious to the inner workings of certain programming languages. If they don’t know how to log in Python, how will they patch a PHP vulnerability?
This is where developers get involved, and DevSecOps teams are formed, further adding to the complexity of balancing availability and security. Not only must teams update the language version to patch the vulnerability, but they also must rewrite application code with the language-level changes in mind.
At this level of complexity, developers have doubled their workload, IT teams cannot serve their primary functions, and security specialists are faced with hours of rework securing an entirely new application.
It is at this point that processes break down. Everything is on fire, no one is clear on how to proceed, and organizations often suffer from data incidents at this stage. In addition to a multi-layered conflict across the company, you also have to repair your reputation with customers.
This is also where the idea of a top-to-bottom policy seems the best way to deal with the issues. And while policies can solve these problems to some degree, no team is truly happy with the outcome. The result? Mediocre products and services from a mediocre organization.
Another problem with policies is that they often leave systems unpatched for long periods, giving hackers plenty of opportunities to sneak in and wait for the perfect time to launch an attack.
The solution: frictionless patching
It seems like there is no way to win. No matter how you slice it, there will be significant risks that must be dealt with in a manner that either affects availability or compromises security. However, there is one way to help mitigate and even resolve conflicts between disruption and delayed patching.
What is frictionless patching?
Frictionless patching is a concept where patches occur without disruptions and simultaneously on as many levels as possible to ensure security and availability. Cybersecurity protects everyone, including businesses, users, and personnel. Security is highly necessary in today’s environment. Hackers have many techniques for stealing personal data and profiting from exploiting vulnerabilities of all kinds. That’s why it’s so important that we change the way we think about security.
Security is for everyone
Security should no longer be seen as a practice reserved for technical workers and specialists. Security should be frictionless for everyone: developers, operations teams, security personnel, and even non-technical workers. Collectively, we are moving toward a digital future that will require each user to have a working knowledge of security practices and solutions.
The problem is that according to 84% of IT managers, human error was the top cause of all data breaches in 2021. Even among companies that have active cybersecurity education programs for non-technical employees, 61% of workers fail a basic cybersecurity quiz. The main goal for these workers is productivity, so it’s no surprise that they get tired of doing tedious tasks with extra steps for security’s sake when they get in the way of productivity.
Security must involve frictionless processes that make sense for everyone involved with the organization to close all the gaps in your cybersecurity ecosystem.
How to resolve the conflict between availability and security
Live patching is a frictionless patching tool that should be in all IT teams’ toolboxes. Live patching allows security teams to patch much faster than regular maintenance windows without the need to restart devices to apply new updates. It’s fast and secure patching with little to no downtime. Could this be the balance between availability and security that all organizations have been looking for?
Manufacturing, financial, and medical businesses should look for communication software that comes with crucial features that enable 24/7 uptime without worrying about vulnerabilities trickling into your systems through language-level risks.
Live patching tools are a simple and effective way to resolve conflicts between IT teams and provide a more secure ecosystem across the organization. Not only does it provide fast patching with no need for downtime, but it can also patch multiple programming languages without disruptions. Live patching tools focus on security issues without introducing code changes that would require code refactoring. That means your code can run how it is without compromising on security or availability.