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A new report from Absolute Software shows that in the past 12 months, despite the challenges associated with maintaining remote devices, many organizations have increased the speed of applying operating system patches on endpoint systems.

Even so, the length of time for enterprise endpoints and available OS patches to become obsolete is still relatively high, 80 days.

“Surprisingly, considering the challenge of maintaining remote devices, we actually found that the time spent by endpoints in applying the latest OS patches is reduced,” said Steven Spadaccini, vice president of global sales engineering at Absolute Software.

In the past year, even the most complex organizations have struggled to support and protect remote employees. He said the lack of visibility and control over the entire endpoint environment has exacerbated the security challenges for many organizations.

Spadaccini said: “Although there must be a lag time of more than two months, it is encouraging that even if the employees are not in the building or in the corporate network, the organization is still working to improve basic safety and health habits.”

For the report, Absolute analyzed anonymous data from approximately 5 million devices running the company’s software at 13,000 customer sites throughout North America and Europe. An important result of this analysis is that a large part of the terminal equipment contains sensitive data. Also note the overall increase in the amount of sensitive data on these systems.

73% of the entire system analyzed by Absolute has at least some sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information and protected health information. Compared with other sectors such as government and healthcare, equipment in financial services and professional services tends to have more sensitive data.

It is absolutely found that the amount of endpoint data has also greatly increased. For example, 30% of the devices in the financial services sector contain more than 500 instances of sensitive data, a 15% increase from the number of days before COVID. Similarly, 15% of medical endpoints contain more than 500 instances of sensitive data, an increase of 12% from before the pandemic began.

Spadaccini attributed the increased data volume to the shift to remote work in recent months.

He said: “In the past year, as more and more employees work remotely, we have seen more sensitive information stored locally on endpoint devices. This may be due to the fact that many people are connected when they leave the company network. And the difficulties encountered in accessing company systems and data.”

Spadaccini said the growing amount of sensitive data on endpoint devices poses greater risks to organizations, especially because nearly a quarter (23%) of devices containing such data have weak or ineffective encryption controls.

Another takeaway from Absolute Report is that the number of applications installed on enterprise endpoint devices has increased, and the number of security controls to protect the devices has also increased. On average, Absolute discovered 96 unique applications and 11.7 security controls per device, such as antivirus, encryption, endpoint management, identity and access management, and endpoint detection and response tools.

Spadaccini said that the problem facing organizations with too many security controls is the increased complexity and vulnerability of attacks. He added that some of the most common vulnerabilities used by attackers in ransomware attacks last year involved virtual private networks and other security applications. He said that in fact, almost all applications deployed on endpoints can open security holes and expand the organization’s attack surface.

Increased adoption of Windows 10
Absolute analysis shows that the adoption rate of Windows 10 has increased significantly in the past year. Among organizations in the professional services sector (98%), government (94%), financial services (92%), and retail (92%), Windows 10 has the highest adoption rate.

It is disturbing that more than four of the 10 Windows 10 systems analyzed by Absolute are running version 1909, the November 2019 version of the operating system, which is related to more than 1,000 known vulnerabilities. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it would no longer release monthly security patches and quality updates for the Home and Pro versions of Windows 10, version 1909, and all server versions of the software.

Spadaccini said that the healthcare industry lags behind other industries in the adoption of Windows 10, and about 10% of organizations are still using Windows 7, which is an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting in January 2020. One possible reason why the organizations of some departments lag behind other departments is that the core applications they rely on may not be compatible with the current OS version. He said that in this case, the organization will choose to keep the outdated and unsupported operating system, thereby taking a certain risk.

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