In a business environment, everything from data keeping to communications, analysis and more is done digitally. Each of these processes is conducted through endpoints like laptops, smartphones, servers, printers, and so on. Periodically, the manufacturers of these endpoints or developers of the applications they run will release patches for their products. These updates may enhance the product in one way or another, such as making it more secure or productive. This is much the case here at Sangfor. Our cybersecurity solutions are regularly updated to provide them with cutting-edge knowledge of new malware strains and new capabilities. Patch management has become a crucial role within tech-savvy and organized businesses. This article will explore the ins and outs of the entire process.
What is patch management in cybersecurity?
In software, a patch is an update released by developers to in some way improve the product. Patch management is therefore the systematic approach to finding and rolling out patches across a network of endpoints. New patches can fix bugs, improve reliability, add new features, and more. Because of this, patch management can significantly improve the productivity of those using software in your business. It also plays an important role in businesses’ information security policies. Some patches are released to make the software more secure and to prevent cybersecurity incidents.
Without Patches, systems are vulnerable to Cyberattacks
Once a system is developed, it requires constant upgrades through patches and new releases. If that is not done, then systems are becoming outdated and vulnerable. This is mainly due to technological changes, advancements in infrastructure, etc. That’s why it is not recommended to keep systems vulnerable. Usually, hackers target old and vulnerable systems and directly get access to the whole network of a company. So in order to avoid chances of cyber attacks, the systems must be upgraded through patches and updates.
How does patch management work?
In general, managing software and keeping it updated with the most recent patches is a good idea. However, in practice, it is a little more complicated. New patches and versions of software are not always flawless and can contain bugs that cause operational disruption. While most of these errors will get hot-fixed quickly, it’s generally not a good idea to install a patch on its first day of release. Rather, good patch management necessitates a more systematic and organized approach. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the patch management process:
- Step #1: Keep a record of all software and current patch versions. This is the first step of patch management and is integral to the latter steps. If a clear record exists of what patches the business’ software is running, you will easily be able to identify what needs patching, where potential security vulnerabilities are, and more. Without this record, the entire patch management process becomes complicated, difficult to manage, and messy.
- Step #2: Identify and note all new patch releases for relevant software. Keeping tabs on the developers of the software you use is critical. Patch releases may happen at any time.
- Step #3: Prioritize patches based on impact. Not all patches are equally as important. Some fix critical security vulnerabilities while others might only apply small quality-of-life improvements. Patch management overseers should analyze which patches are most urgent and prioritize the rolling out of these first.
- Step #4: Test new patches in a controlled environment. As mentioned above, patches can sometimes have glitches or bugs. Whether within the patch itself or simply how it interacts with another of your software, good patch management tries to avoid this at all costs. One way to do this is to test the patch in a safe, controlled environment. For most businesses, this can simply be designated endpoints. These machines can be watched closely to see how the patched system behaves.
- Step #5: Roll out patches across the entire system. Should there be no problems in the patch testing phase, the next stage is to roll out the patch to all relevant endpoints. Endpoints in your business should always be running the same patch to ensure compatibility.
- Step #6: Keep track of recently patched software. It is always a good idea to ensure that newly patched software is running as intended and without issues.
Patch management best practices
- Always keep endpoints standardized. This helps ensure your business is organized, makes troubleshooting far easier, and ensures endpoints are compatible with each other.
- Have a disaster recovery plan and information security policy. As mentioned, patch management is not always free sailing. Both these will help mitigate any potential issues that may arise.
- Utilize a risk assessment framework. Cybersecurity experts will be the first to tell you how important it is to properly protect your business. A risk assessment framework is another element to help you determine which patches are most crucial and urgent.
- Never patch and forget. It is crucial to monitor recently patched systems to ensure stability and reliability.
- Keep a regularly updated inventory of endpoints. This way, you will easily be able to identify endpoints that need patching, what versions are currently being run, and so on.
Why is patch management important?
Patch management far too often flies under the radar of business owners and leaders. However, it can have a huge impact on organizations by:
- Helping make the work environment more secure from cyber security risks. Lots of security breaches happen because of weaknesses in software. Developers will keep an eye out for these vulnerabilities and release patches to nullify them.
- Ensuring stable organizational operation. Many patches are also released to improve the stability of software and eliminate bugs. If your software and therefore services are as reliable as possible, there will be less business downtime.
- Maintaining compliance. Depending on the nature of your organization and industry-specific compliance regulations, patches can be crucial. Your organization may be at risk of being fined if the software used does not meet security regulations.
- Providing access to cutting-edge new features. Proper and effective patch management can keep your business up to date with the newest versions of software. New features and functionality can help you improve your services, provide clients with more options, or simply make life easier for your team.
Learn more with Sangfor
Want to learn more about patch management solution or simply have a cybersecurity-related question? Do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Sangfor team today. We offer a range of cybersecurity solutions designed to keep your business safe and out of harm's way. For example, our Security Assessment service can help detect patch-related vulnerabilities among much more in your systems, devices, and applications. Browse our full range of solutions today.