Nearly all organizations, regardless of size, struggle with configuration management and change control. The need to review and approve changes in advance of making them, to formulate impact analysis, testing procedures and contingency plans all serves to slow things down. It’s no wonder most IT professionals acknowledge the potential benefits of Change Control, but simply do nothing about it.
Many organizations have processes for change management implemented not because they want to, but because they have to. Formal IT operational frameworks such as PCI DSS, SOX, and NERC CIP all state that you must be able to detect changes in your IT environment, but many view these processes as overly bureaucratic and diminishing in productivity.
But evidence shows that when done properly, change management does not slow things down at all. In fact, Donna Scott, VP & Research Director at Gartner, claims that “80% of unplanned downtime is caused by people and process issues, including poor change management practices, while the remainder is caused by technology failures and disasters.” Determining the cause of an outage without proper change management can also take up a great deal of valuable time, perpetuating the outage and making it difficult to repair.
Change Control and Configuration Management are two, if not the most, critical processes with respect to deploying and operating secure and highly available systems and software. For this reason, organizations need to develop an effective change management program.
The first step to an effective change management program is to ensure that all changes go through an organization’s change management process; any staff members who repeatedly violate this policy must be assigned to a new position that does not involve making changes. Without this policy enforced, a true culture of change management cannot develop. Next, understand what you have and know what assets are critical to your organization. Next, make sure that the staff members in charge of making the changes are not the ones in charge of approving them.
Then, leverage Closed-Loop Intelligent Change Control, which allows for repeated or recurring change patterns to be captured and identified as either harmless or potentially harmful, discriminating pre-approved changes from unexpected and unwanted changes. Pre-approved changes can also be forensically profiled in advance in order to spot any deviations that may represent ‘insider threats’. This approach helps dramatically improve your ability to spot potential breaches by reducing “change noise” and exposing insider and zero-day malware activity.
Closed-Loop Intelligent Change Control wraps around your existing processes uses intelligent and highly automated technology to deliver change control without all the red-tape and stifling resource requirements. Intelligent Change Control means that changes are detected as they are made and reviewed automatically. If the change matches any pre-defined Planned Change patterns then it can be reconciled automatically with the relevant RFC details, even for estates with thousands of devices and even more changes happening. If an unplanned change is recorded, this is then highlighted for review – because all the known, expected and pre-approved changes are taken care of automatically, more time is freed up to investigate changes that may be security incidents.
Once an unplanned change has been investigated and identified as safe – maybe it was an emergency change that hadn't been assigned to an RFC – this can now be reconciled with an approved Planned Change record and promoted to the Approved Baseline. This way, other occurrences of the same change will now be classified as 'known good' meaning that any similar past changes or future instances can be instantly assigned a Planned Change status.
Learn more about Closed-Loop Intelligent Change Control
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