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Whether to patch or not remains the popular question in the manufacturing automation arena, but that is not the only place the query remains up in the air.

That is because one in five IT professionals say they either have not fully patched their organizations’ endpoint operating systems — or they aren’t sure whether the machines are up-to-date, a new survey said.

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A fully patched operating system is the “minimum bar” for any organization, said Matt Hathaway, senior product manager with Rapid7, which released results of the survey of 600 IT pros on their enterprises’ endpoint security practices.

While 83 percent said they fully patched their endpoint OSes, that means 17 percent are not.

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“Seventeen percent [with unpatched OSes] is unsettling as we really consider patching your OS to be the minimum bar for an organization’s patching process,” Hathaway said. “Our assumption is that this can be explained by the challenge of getting broad organizational buy-in for a consistent patching process and a disconnect between the security and IT teams. In some cases, availability is prioritized over patching: For example in the healthcare sector, where treatment is 24/7.” Along those lines availability is paramount in the manufacturing automaton sector.

Another red flag from the survey: Fifty-four percent don’t or don’t know whether they run code execution prevention tools on their machines like Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. Of that group, 30 percent don’t run these tools, and 24 percent don’t know if they do.

Even though Microsoft regularly mentions EMET in its security blog, security pros still don’t seem to be in the know much about it or its benefits, Hathaway said.

“Additionally, a lot of our customers have stated that they never bothered implementing [EMET] 3.5 tech preview or the 4.0 beta because they were waiting for a final release,” Hathaway said. “So the long lull may very well explain why our survey results show that EMET is not broadly used only a few months after the 4.0 final release.”

The good news is 96 percent of organizations run antivirus on their endpoints, and 90 percent said their email systems will block suspicious attachments. That means a large number of businesses are employing tools to stop malware from hitting their endpoints, Hathaway said.

Around 16 percent don’t require their users to select complex passwords that expire at regular intervals, and 2 percent don’t know whether their organizations have this policy, according to the survey.

“The fact that only 81 percent of respondents enforce complex, expiring passwords makes us question whether the industry debate over the effectiveness of passwords is being misconstrued to mean they are a waste of time,” Hathaway said.

Click here for the full Rapid7 endpoint security survey.

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