What Do You Need to Secure a Blended Windows-Linux Environment?

Color on a screen of locks indicating a blended Linux and Windows environment

Linux and Windows are a study in contrasts—the former operating system is open and users can easily copy and modify the code at will, while the latter is closed and proprietary. However, Windows is no longer the only game in town; increasingly, both are used in enterprises, which makes securing them a tall task.

While many tools exist for organizations to manage vulnerabilities in their software, they tend to be OS-specific. For example, most firewall tools and some vulnerability scanners only work on one type of OS. If you rely on these tools to secure a blended Linux-Windows environment, you will end up having to master and deploy a variety of different security platforms, each geared at a different operating system.

The vast majority were initially built for use with Linux, resulting in gaps in functionality when they’re used for Windows. The same issue exists with patching systems—even in a single OS environment, the process can be time-consuming when done manually. This only becomes more challenging when you have a mixed environment.

Automating the patching process reduces the time and resources required, however, many automated patch management systems don’t work across Windows and Linux.

While it is necessary to deploy OS-specific security tools to home in on and address vulnerabilities when dealing with a blended OS environment, you will want to incorporate broader strategies that help protect against vulnerabilities, no matter which type of system you are managing.

Besides the issue of disparate tools, security teams must also grapple with the fact that software changes and evolves over time due to optimization, new features and security fixes. As a result, software developers throughout the supply chain must continually evaluate how changes might impact their code. This includes changes to third-party components used to build software.

The Role of an SBOM in a Blended Windows and Linux Environment

A new white paper from Rezilion explores the considerations security teams should keep in mind when you have very different environments to secure. For starters, while it may sound obvious, you must understand both environments and have visibility and the ability to differentiate between the two OSs.

Open source proves less of a challenge because of its transparent nature, but for organizations that use both Linux and Windows, a key best practice is to use a software bill of materials (SBOM) to secure the software supply chain.

The Linux Foundation recognizes the value of this, with Executive Director Jim Zemlin observing that “SBOMs are no longer optional,’’ and its research has revealed that 78% of organizations expect to produce or consume SBOMs in 2022.

This is because SBOMs provide a significant amount of information about the components of software products. A Linux Foundation survey found that nearly half of respondents believe having an SBOM makes it easier to monitor components for vulnerabilities.

When an organization uses an SBOM, security teams can more easily monitor components for vulnerabilities to more proactively evaluate and remediate risks. When a new security risk is discovered by security researchers, identifying whether a particular product is potentially vulnerable can be time-consuming. Having an easily accessible list of components can make this process much more efficient.

Yet, because they are static, you cannot rely on SBOMs to flag new vulnerabilities. This makes real-time dynamic SBOMs critically important because software creation and maintenance are ever-changing. With a dynamic SBOM, security teams can correlate the information they have with the latest security advisories.

Rezilion’s Dynamic SBOM can be deployed in software environments including Windows and Linux simultaneously and provides a real-time inventory of all software components in a single graphical UI. Rezilion’s platform also integrates dynamic runtime analysis to both detect software vulnerabilities as well as validate their actual exploitability. This will help teams to clear away “false-positive” scan results and avoid wasteful patching work that shifts resources away from build activity.

Learn more about securing blended environments in our white paper.

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