What are Micropatches? Why Do We Need Micropatching?

Various known but unpatched vulnerabilities pose significant risks to organizations. However, these organizations use defensive tools and technologies to mitigate those risks but continue to use software containing potential vulnerabilities. It leaves those systems at a continuous risk because once a vulnerability is made public, a malicious link or code to exploit it generally appears within 48 hours.

The National Vulnerability Database presented 22,000 new vulnerabilities recently in 2021. The primary issue is the time the organization needs (almost 60.3 days) to resolve a single vulnerability. This means the attackers get 60 days to exploit the vulnerability before it gets fixed. Therefore, it is essential to micropatch the vulnerability as soon as it is detected. Micropatching is the practical solution so far! But what are micropatches?

This post will help you understand a micropatch, why it is called micropatch, how it functions, and basic differences. But let’s first have a look at patches.

What Are Patches?

Patches are the operating system (OS) and software updates that fix security vulnerabilities within a product or a program. These are the updates that software vendors release to address performance bugs and provide improved security features within the program/product. 

Patches are installed by a human programmer via a debugger or an editing tool or are under programmed control. These are applied to program files, computer memory, or storage devices. When applied, patches can be temporary or permanent (until applied again). 

There are three categories of patches; 

  • Security patches: These patches address security vulnerabilities in the software and make the software more secure to use. 
  • Bug fixes patches: These patches are used to protect software from crashing down. These are applied to correct problems in software so they can run smoothly. 
  • Feature patches: These patches are applied to add new functionality to the software. 

What are Micropatches? Why is it Called Micropatch?

The use of a piece of code to fix an individual vulnerability without requiring reboot, downtime, or outages for a system is known as Micropatching. Micro patch/code is small and has the data about the vulnerable app, the patch injecting location, the patch, and the patch code itself. These micropatches are generally available from a third-party provider.

The reason that it is a small patch that only fixes the selected individual security vulnerability is why it is called micropatch. Because these patches are not available with the original software vendor but the third-party providers and are crafted in a difficult manner, the focus is mostly on fixing the critical vulnerabilities. 

Why Does Micropatching Exist?

Micropatching replaces the traditional process of fixing vulnerabilities through patching. The reason behind this is that micropatching puts forth two significant problems;

  1. Software vendors take too long to provide a patch fix for a vulnerability- 60.3 days.
  2. At present, software vendors are not providing security patches, and organizations need something more secure and reliable. 

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These issues are solved with micro patching. It fixes the vulnerability as soon as it is detected, and third-party vendors always have the micropatches ready to enhance the security of processes and products. 

Patching vs Micropatching:

Patching and micropatching are similar in that both are the processes to repair a flaw or vulnerability identified after a software/product release. Newly released patches and micro patches fix a security flaw, bug, or vulnerability and improve the applications with new features. However, the difference lies in how they work to fix the vulnerability.

Patching replaces an executable file (usually *.ocx, *.dll, *.exe) with new executable files on the hard disk. Both these codes (old and new) are compiled from source code by the software vendor, who then signs these as well. 

In micropatching, this usual route is not followed because the micropatches come from a third-party provider with no access to the manufacturer’s private key or source code. The provider performs a deception maneuver where the executable is loaded into the main memory each time. Then the file is loaded by an automatic agent and patched before the execution of binary code and after verifying the signature. 

Patches Micropatches 
Usual patching route is followed Providers perform deception maneuver 
Replace executable files (usually *.ocx, *.dll, *.exe,) Automatic agent loads file and patches it before the execution of binary code. 
Are provided by software vendors Are provided by third-party vendors 
The old and new codes are compiled from the source code No access to manufacturer’s source code 
Require downtime Do not require downtime

How Does Micropatching Work?

Below is a complete process on how micropatching works and fixes the vulnerability without following the usual route; 

  1. Micropatching does not follow the usual route of fixing the vulnerability (changing and compiling the source code and replacing the executed file). 
  2. The third-party vendors do not know the source code, so they perform a deception process where timing is the key: an automatic agent is always in work when an executable is loaded into the main memory. 
  3. This automatic agent loads the file right in time, and the file is patched after verifying the signature and executing binary code. 
  4. The micropatch is designed to modify the executable as expected, even if there’s no knowledge of the source code of the software manufacturer. 
  5. The necessary changes are derived from the analysis of the changes done to newer program versions, or a reverse engineering process is performed to develop the changes entirely on their own. 
  6. For instance, if a particular patch fixes a vulnerability or makes some changes in a newer software version, micropatch providers experiment to see if the change works in the previous (no longer supported) software version. 

Why Do We Need Micropatching? How Does Micropatching Solve the Patching Challenges?

With the growing number of cyberattacks, the need to secure and update our products and software is also growing. The main reason for almost 60% of the businesses that suffered a cyber hack or data breach was a vulnerability that was not patched at the right time. 

Besides making our products/businesses secure, micro patching also offers the following benefits.

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No Downtime Required

Micropatches don’t modify or replace running and executable files, so they don’t require downtime at all. Micro patch application, commonly known as function hooking, is used to fix the vulnerability. Function hooking includes the application of a fix into the memory, which requires no restart of the software or system, and the critical systems and users can continue working without being disturbed. 

Improved IT Security

Micropatching also comes with an automated update, meaning that the software is automatically updated as soon as the patch is available. This automated process ensures that you are not left dependent on the employees to update their systems.

Micropatching considers multiple processes, so there’s a high chance that your software and processes are equally taken care of and properly updated security patches. 

Speed 

Micropatches are deployed in hours and take much less time to test the interference with the functionality of the baseline. This keeps the software protected from any future functionality threat. Since micropatches are applied quickly and removed locally or remotely, product testing is simpler.

Fix to Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

Attackers are always looking for a new vulnerability 24/7, which is why the Zero-Day vulnerabilities are violated and cause the most damage. Micropatching resolves this issue because it is designed to work on these Zero-Day vulnerabilities as soon as they are detected and keep the systems fully protected.

What Are the Problem Associated With the Micorpatching?

There’s no doubt about how helpful the micropatches are in fixing vulnerabilities and securing products from cyber attacks. But, with benefits come problems as well! 

Below are some problems associated with micro patching; 

Scripted Codes Remain Vulnerable

Though micro patching is specific to individual vulnerabilities and can fix them quickly, some logic flaws are still difficult to fix. The flaws in the scripted code within the design of a vulnerability or an application like Python and PHP remain vulnerable. This is because the code is only interpreted at runtime.

A Micropatch is Not Always Trustworthy

There are many benefits of using a micropatch (they are quick to apply, and bug fixes are done automatically) the security team needs to jump in to validate the trustworthiness of a patch before deploying it.

Since the micropatch for a vulnerability is not provided by the software vendors and third-party providers are responsible for its making, there’s a chance that these are not 100% trustworthy.

The Best Micropatching Solution:

0patch is one of the leading micropatches deliverers and provides the best micro patching solution to most software vulnerabilities. The 0patch patches of code are applicable to computers and other devices worldwide, even the closed source products. 

How Does 0patch Micropatching Work?

0patch fully understands what micropatches are, so it has reinvented software patching for better results. Their patching machines continuously monitor all the running computer processes. When any of the processes is found to have any patch available, it immediately applies the patch in the memory without the process being disturbed.

The best thing about the 0patch micropatching solution is that the executable files are not replaced or modified but are corrected in memory only. So, no relaunching is required while 0patch is applying micropatches to the processes.

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How Does 0patch Look for New Patches?

0patch server is always in action and confirms from the server for any new patch that might be available. If any new patch is available, the agent downloads it immediately and applies to the process without wasting any further time. The patches are available also for vulnerable products on computers that are not linked to the internet at the time. 

Why 0patch? 

Following reasons are enough to justify why 0patch is the best solution for micropatching; 

  1. 0patch solutions (micropatches) are light and simple to apply
  2. The patch deployment time is short (reduced only to hours)
  3. Tiny micropatches reviewing is inexpensive.
  4. The micropatches are instantly applied and removed locally or remotely. This simplifies production testing.
  5. 0patch ensures that your systems do not need downtime or reboots during micro patching and that the production is always safe and secure.
  6. 0patch’s virtual software patching is imperceptible. 

Factors 0patch Considers for Risk Assessment of Micropatching Vulnerabilities 

0patch focuses on several factors while assessing any risks of micropatching vulnerabilities. The factors include;

  1. Is proof-of-concept exploit publicly available on the internet? If yes, hackers/attackers can easily purchase it from threat analysis companies or get it from an exploit kit. Reverse engineering helps attackers to devise an exploit.
  2. Is the vulnerability already being exploited? If yes, there are more chances that other attackers also obtain the exploit.
  3. Is the vulnerability an RCE type with a realistic attack scenario? If yes, it is given high priority.
  4. Is any vendor patch available for the vulnerability, or is it expensive? If no patch is available or expensive, 0patch focuses on such vulnerabilities to offer solutions immediately.
  5. Are there any functional problems with official vendor patch applications? If the patch provided by the software vendor has functional issues with the application, this is an elevated risk.
  6. Is the product with vulnerability a niche product? If yes, this is considered an elevated risk because organizations and individuals use such products and are mostly the target of strongly dedicated attackers.
  7. Is there any possibility for this vulnerability to be micropatched? 0patch prepares the micropatches for such vulnerabilities, except those in scripted codes or the Windows kernel.  

Wrap Up

Unlike patching, micropatching is a more secure and easy-to-use solution that keeps businesses from cyberattacks. As a micropatch is designed for specific individual vulnerabilities, there’s less chance that any loophole remains for an attacker to attack and access the sensitive data/information causing huge and inevitable loss. 

Knowing what are micropatches, why is it called micropatch, and how they work is the key to effectively protecting your system from cyberattacks. Ensuring that the micropatches you are applying to your software and products are also important, and once it’s done, the chances of you experiencing an attack become lesser. 

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