By Bineesh Mathew - July 06, 2023 8 Mins Read
Patch management is the process of closing security vulnerabilities and applying regular security updates. It helps to keep software safe from security attacks. Patch management is part of vulnerability management.
Cyber attackers can use vulnerabilities in the IT business environment to spread malware and launch cyberattacks. To fix these vulnerabilities, vendors release updates called “patches.” Patch management means maintaining the history of patches for each software for security and compliance.
The regular patching process can disturb regular business, interrupting workflows. Patch management is done to minimize that downtime.
Applying firmware and software updates and patch management improves functionality. Moreover, patch management reduces security risks and adds to the performance of the software. These patches can enhance performance of the software, make them safer and more productive.
Patch management sets up a centralized process to apply new patches to IT assets.
Often security patches address specific security risks by solving a particular vulnerability. Cybercriminals mainly target unpatched assets. Thus, security investments without regular security patching may expose the business and the company to various security breaches.
Some of the patches bring new features to devices and apps. These updates often improve user productivity and asset performance.
Bug fixes mainly address all the minor issues in software or hardware. These minor issues typically do not bring in security problems. But they do affect software performance.
It is not easy to download and apply every patch for every asset in real time. That’s because patching requires downtime. to allow for patches to take effect, the systems must stop work and users need to log out. They must reboot critical systems to apply the patches.
Organizations can prioritize critical updates with a formal patch management process. This process ensures the timely patching of risks without disrupting any work.
Companies must follow certain cybersecurity practices, as per regulations. The compliances include:
Patch management can help companies keep critical systems compliant.
Protecting endpoints from hackers is the ultimate goal of patch management. It also keeps systems running in top-notch shape. But patch management also:
Most companies consider patch management as a continuous process. All software vendors regularly release new patches. Moreover, with changes in the IT infrastructure, the patching requirements may change too.
Companies need to outline patch management best practices to get the most benefit from patches. End users and admins should follow the best practices throughout the patch management lifecycle. Thus, to outline the patch management best practices, companies draft formal patch management policies.
Let us look into the stages of the patch management lifecycle:
Security and IT teams create inventories of network assets. This is to maintain a list of all IT resources. These network assets can include operating systems, third-party applications, remote and on-premises endpoints, and mobile devices.
IT teams also help to specify the software versions and hardware employees can use. This helps in reducing the variety of asset types used in the network. This standardization simplifies the patching process. It can keep IT assets safe by avoiding using old, unsafe, or incompatible apps and devices.
After attaining a comprehensive record of IT and security assets, the teams can effectively monitor and keep track of available patches. They can also assess the status of patch applications on each asset and identify any assets lacking proper patching.
In terms of security patches, specific updates are more critical than others. IT and security teams leverage resources like threat intelligence feeds. These help to identify the most important vulnerabilities present in their systems. Updates aimed at removing these vulnerabilities have higher priority over comparatively less critical updates.
One of the fundamental approaches of patch management policies to reduce system downtime is prioritization. The network becomes secure when IT and security teams first deploy critical patches. The offline patching time also is reduced.
Occasionally, newly released patches may result in issues such as integration failures. It can also include failure to address the targeted vulnerabilities or even potential hijacking by hackers. In 2021, cybercriminals exploited a vulnerability within Kaseya’s VSA platform. It was by disguising ransomware as a genuine software update to target unsuspecting customers.
IT and security teams need to detect and fix these problems by efficiently patching. They do it before these get installed and impact the entire network.
The term “patch deployment” encompasses both the timing and methodology used to deploy patches. Typically, patching windows are scheduled during periods with minimal employee activity. Additionally, patching schedules may be planned by vendors’ according to their dates of release of patches. For instance, Microsoft consistently releases patches on Tuesdays, commonly called “Patch Tuesday” amongst IT professionals.
To avoid disruptions, IT and security teams often deploy patches in batches. This is a better plan than implementing them across the entire network simultaneously. This approach allows some employees to continue their work while others temporarily log off for patching. Implementing patches in groups also serves as a final opportunity to identify any potential issues before they impact the entire network.
Furthermore, a comprehensive patch deployment strategy may include the ability to monitor assets. It follows the patching process and pulls back any modifications that unexpectedly cause problems. This safeguards the network and ensures the uninterrupted functioning of critical operations.
To ensure the highest security, IT and security teams maintain a comprehensive record of the patching procedures. This includes evaluation outcomes, deployment outcomes, and any remaining assets awaiting patching.
This meticulous documentation ensures the asset inventory is consistently updated. However, it serves as solid evidence of compliance with cybersecurity regulations when an audit is done.
Due to the intricate nature of patch management, organizations try to streamline the process. One approach is outsourcing the patching process to managed service providers (MSPs). But companies that choose to handle patching internally use patch management software. This helps to automate a significant portion of the procedure.
Patch management software commonly integrates with widely used operating systems, including Mac, Windows, and Linux. These software applications continuously monitor assets to identify missing patches and detect the availability of new ones.
Upon finding available patches, patch management solutions can automatically apply them. It is possible in real-time or according to a planned schedule. Many solutions download patches to a central server to minimize bandwidth usage and distribute them to network assets.
Additionally, patch management software incorporates automated testing, documentation, and system rollback features. This helps to address any potential issues arising from patch malfunctions.
Patch management tools can be stand-alone software or part of a larger cybersecurity solution. Many vulnerability management and attack surface management solutions incorporate patch management features.
They can include asset inventories and automated patch deployment. Additionally, various endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions can automatically install patches. Some organizations opt for unified endpoint management (UEM) platforms. It is to patch both on-premises and remote devices efficiently.
Automated patch management eliminates the need for constant manual monitoring, approval, and application of each patch. This solves the problem of missing critical patches due to lack of time.
Patch management is crucial to installing security updates on software, drivers, and firmware. It helps to safeguard against potential vulnerabilities. Additionally, efficient patch management plays a vital role in optimizing system performance. It enhances productivity.
It is essential to prioritize the security of all systems, whether employee laptops or userless PC-based devices such as kiosks or digital signage. Doing proper patch management can protect your business from leaks and breaches. It will further result in decreased productivity and damage to your reputation.
Patch management allows for enhanced accessibility, device control, remote patching, and repair convenience. This ultimately provides flexibility for both your IT department and your business.
In the face of numerous risks posed by hackers and data thieves, implementing smart patch management can effectively ensure the smooth operation of your business.
Bineesh Mathew is an accomplished senior writer with 10+ years of experience in multiple domains. With a proven track record, he has specialized in writing for business strategies, innovations, the latest technologies, and management topics. Currently, Bineesh is working as a Senior Content Writer with On Dot Media. Bineesh is an English Literature graduate who has mastered the language with excellent editing skills. As a writer, he has contributed exciting writing pieces for various topics such as digital marketing, cybersecurity, and different latest technologies, including supply chain, management, enterprise leadership, and much more.
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