What Is Patch Management?
A patch is a piece of code or set of instructions tailored to fix glitches and security bugs or add new features to an existing software product.
In definition, patch management is a continuous process that includes scanning IT assets for missing software updates or fixes and eliminating vulnerabilities by sourcing and applying the necessary patches. Information security patch management also involves determining which patches are essential, their impact on the IT ecosystem, as well as patch scheduling and testing.
Why is Patch Management Important?
Patching is essential for keeping software and information systems updated and secure. Indeed, patching helps prevent cyberattacks. According to a 2019 survey by Ponemon Institute, 60 percent of breach victims said they were attacked through unpatched software vulnerabilities. Patch management is vital for these reasons:
- Fixes performance, compatibility, and security bugs
- Improves software features
- Minimizes downtime
- Maintains security compliance
How to Choose Patch Management Solution?
Patch management is a tedious process, yet it’s only one of the many components of IT risk management. Most IT security teams use patch management tools to deploy updates faster and effortlessly.
When deciding to implement patch management software into your IT workflows, consider if the platform has the following features:
- Compatibility with your devices’ OS to install Windows updates remotely swiftly.
- Remote patch management option to secure endpoints that are not connected to your domain network like working-from-home employees.
- Ability to support various endpoint devices: patch Windows servers, laptops, desktops, etc.
- Automated patch deployment feature in place to proactively secure endpoints from vulnerabilities and optimize IT workflows.
- Update statistics, vulnerability scans, and detailed IT reports to comply with security standards and regulations.
- Cloud patch management architecture to eliminate unnecessary costs associated with maintaining on-premise solutions.
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The Process and Best Practices for Patch Management
An effective patch management policy follows a strategic approach with set guidelines to achieve the best results. Here are the key steps in the patch management process order:
- Take an IT inventory: Create a detailed catalog of all the hardware and software components making up your IT infrastructure.
- Standardize all systems: Ensure that most (if not all) systems run similar OS and software application versions to simplify patching.
- Examine the security controls in place: Track all the active digital security measures and their associated resources.
Run a vulnerability assessment: Check for known vulnerabilities in your IT to understand the risk profile.
- Get available patches: Check with vendors and developers for new patches to fix known flaws.
- Test and apply patches: Test any new patches in a sandbox environment to measure their impact and efficacy. Then apply the patches based on the test results and their priority.
- Follow up: Reassess the entire IT system to ensure patches are installed correctly and work as expected.