Software patches are an important component of any organization’s security infrastructure. Often developed in response to software bugs, security upgrades are applied to operating systems, network equipment, and applications to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited by cybercriminals. Pretty self-explanatory, right? So, why are bad actors like those behind the WannaCry, NotPetya, and SamSam malware attacks so successful? It is because too many organizations are not following a regular patch management schedule.
What is Patch Management and Why Is It So Important?
Patch management allows organizations a way to streamline the detection, download, and deployment of various software patches to workstations, servers, applications, and network equipment. Having a thoughtful, comprehensive patch management plan can spare your organization the headache of having to deal with a cybersecurity breach, and here’s why.
It Helps You Keep Up With New Patches
Technology organizations are constantly evaluating the current library of patches available for a given OS or application and developing additional upgrades as new threats or feature changes become available.
This means that the frequency in which new patches are made available for installation is not regulated and must be constantly maintained, an admittedly daunting task for most organizations. Without a centralized way to scan your network for vulnerabilities, separate the critical patches from those that can wait, and deploy new patches in a controlled test environment, it’s no wonder why patch management can often fall by the wayside.
It Protects You From Existing Vulnerabilities
While zero-day exploits – attacks made on vulnerabilities previously unknown to the general public, do happen, they are much rarer than exploits that target pre-existing vulnerabilities. In fact, one in three security breaches is caused by unpatched vulnerabilities. This means that bad actors are leveraging existing loopholes instead of trying to create new ones. This same sentiment goes for software or operating systems that are no longer supported, which can be extremely troublesome for those using older equipment.
It Can Help with Productivity & Compliance
While most may associate patching with cybersecurity, there are also many patches created to address other flaws in a system or application. Regularly applying functional patches can keep your operating systems in tip-top shape.
Maintaining a regular patching schedule can also help keep up with ever-increasing compliance requirements and guidelines. Keep records of when patches become available and how often they are applied.
Patching Best Practices
Following these 5 best practices will streamline your patch management processes.
#1. Keep a Consolidated Software Inventory
Unidentified software versions or assets are one of the biggest vulnerabilities a company can face in terms of patch management. Create a list of all IT assets within your organization and update it at regular intervals. Ensure that you can organize the list by OS, software version, device type, etc., so you can easily track when new updates become available.
#2. Keep Up With Security Updates From Vendors
Staying up to date with the vendors you routinely use within your organization is a great way to stay informed about newly discovered vulnerabilities. Many organizations evaluate their products and deliver new patches at regular intervals, similar to Microsoft Patch Tuesday.
#3. Prioritize High-Risk Devices
Using your asset list, identify the systems and applications that are most crucial to your business and ensure that they receive regular patches. Systems that are the most behind on patches should be a high priority until they are up to date.
#4. Define Your Patch Management Policy
Creating a defined scanning, testing, and deployment schedule will help you maximize the productivity of your patch management solution. This policy should include how frequently you scan for new vulnerabilities, which devices you test with, and how you will deploy standard vs. emergency patches.
#5. Have a Roll-Back Plan
Although you may have a process in place to test and validate new patches before deploying them to your entire organization, there may be times when a patch must be rolled back. Defining how you will remove patches and restore functionality to a device, should it be required, will help reduce downtime.
How Peters Can Help
In 2019, 60% of breaches involved unpatched vulnerabilities. Peters & Associates is a Chicago-based managed services provider that possesses both the workforce and the expertise to develop and manage effective patch management solutions for our clients.
Our PULSE IT Support & Managed Services offerings can help ease the burden of maintaining a patching solution, allowing you to focus on the things that matter most to your business. Keep current on End of Support with our highlights page.
For additional resources, check out this blog from our partners at Interlink Cloud Advisors.
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