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What Is Patch Management, and Why Do You Need It?

Today we will talk about patch management, what are patches, what is patch management and why is beneficial for your company, what are the risks of not using it, and the best practice to follow.

What Is Patch Management

What are patches?

In information technology, a patch is a piece of software code meant to upgrade, optimize, or secure existing software, computers, servers, and technology systems. A patch is commonly referred to as a bug fix since the reason for it is an error that is discovered by its developers or users and needs to be corrected.

So basically, a patch is like a “bandage” applied to software. Every time a security flaw is discovered or the program’s functionality needs an upgrade, software developers create a patch to address these aspects.

Modern software is extremely complex and difficult to create, so mistakes are inevitable. And when those mistakes happen, we have to go back and apply a fix. You must find the vulnerabilities in your network before the bad guys do, as such vulnerabilities are an open door for cyberattacks. Make no mistake: malicious actors will take advantage of these bugs.

Following the discovery of these flaws, the next step is to patch them as soon as possible. Patches may be applied to your complete infrastructure, including software/operating systems, routers, IoT devices, servers, and other devices.

What is patch management?

Patch management is the process of distributing and applying software updates called patches to address software vulnerabilities. This way you keep endpoints like computers and mobile devices as well as servers protected from hackers who intend to exploit system bugs.

Why is patch management so important?

The importance of patch management With each passing day, the number of cyberattacks grows exponentially. For companies with multiple servers and devices, making sure that all of them are up-to-date can be both time-consuming and challenging. Attempting to manage these patches manually is not only inconvenient but can also pose a significant risk to organizations.

What is a good patch management solution?

Enterprises missing a good patch management solution Are exposed to cyberattacks because threat actors can easily abuse any known vulnerability;

• Can experience a devastating financial impact. The loss in productivity and the cost of recovery will certainly exceed the cost of implementing an automated patch management solution;

• Will be left behind because of the outdated system, struggling to solve issues caused by not patching in due time while competition will move forward;

• Will have their brand image damaged, with clients losing their trust;

• Can’t be fined because of a lack of compliance.

True, you have no control over the emergence of cyber threats. However, it is also true that you can have absolute control over and effectively manage your organization's security flaws. One of the causes of the largest cyberattacks to date has been poor patch management. Patch management is critical for ensuring solid organizational security.

Advantages of patch management

Patch management will spot old software:

if your software vendor is out of business or has another problem, this solution will help you identify the software that does not receive patches anymore so you can replace it promptly.

Improved device and data protection:

Fixing vulnerabilities with the most recent software patches aids in the prevention of data breaches in which private customer or corporate data may leak outside your organization.

User experience:

When using patch management, you can be sure that devices run smoothly and without disruptions. Users don't have to deal with performance issues or bugs, which leads to increased productivity.

Reduced compliance fines:

If your company isn't patching and thus isn't meeting compliance standards, you could face monetary penalties from regulatory agencies. Patch management that is successful ensures that you comply.

Minimized Downtime:

Ransomware and other types of cyberattacks can put your company's operations on hold. Functional vulnerabilities can also lead to system downtime.

The patching process has some steps that need to be followed if you want to have a smooth and efficient patch management process:

• The first step in a proper patch management system is to make an inventory of all your current software solutions.

• Secondly, choose a patch management tool that will fit your needs and target the most vulnerable parts of your system. This tool will scan for available patches, then it will analyze the results and determine what needs patches, it will apply the patches and eventually monitor the process.

• Then define and enforce your patch management policies. It takes time to put together a policy document that outlines your patching procedure, but it is required. A patch management policy will set clear rules to make sure your patching process runs the right way, schedule patches to be applied on time, and document patching results properly.

• also test patches before implementation, before deploying a patch it is important to test it to ensure that it is working properly.

However, the patching process should be automatic for better accuracy and to avoid wasting time unnecessarily. That is why a patch management tool is recommended. Besides, a patch needs to be applied as soon as possible to avoid exposure to cyberattacks.

Patch management best practices

Automate Patching Although the patching process can be done either manually or automatically, an automatic solution will always be better in terms of saving time and avoiding human error. In addition, sysadmins will not have to constantly spend time applying patches where and when needed so they can focus their attention on other security-related tasks.

It’s all about consistency. The patch management process should be a constant and ceaseless one, not just from time to time. So, applying patches requires a well-defined schedule to avoid errors. An automated tool will help you schedule your patches and define an efficient patching routine.

Patch, but promptly, The process of patch management should not be postponed too much. So once released, patches have to be applied.

Again, the testing phase Patch validity depends on the vendor himself, therefore what you can do is to make sure you test your patches on some machines first and see if they work.

Use patch management alongside vulnerability management The patch management process is part of the whole process named vulnerability management. The latter identifies bugs that might be system configuration flaws, open ports, or registry settings for instance. Before patching, vulnerability management will detect the vulnerabilities.

Be aware of the results After all patch management best practices were properly implemented, you want to know if they worked and if your patching routine makes you walk on the right path. This is called the auditing part. A complete analysis that will provide you with metrics will tell you if the patch management has success and where it improved the system.

Define a recovery plan in case of failure If your patch management results fail to meet expectations, then a recovery plan should be taken into consideration. To avoid data loss, a backup is always the best solution.

When it comes to maintaining the security, integrity, and accessibility of an organization's data and systems, patch management is critical, and the process should be as thorough as possible. The more frequently you patch and update all of your systems, the less likely your company will be hacked.