Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits

Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits. Primarily speaking, Patch management is the process of finding vulnerabilities of IT resources and applying appropriate patches. Basically, patch management involves identifying, testing, acquiring, and installing patches intended to fix bugs, add features, or close security holes. Organizations save lots of time and money by addressing potential loopholes and flaws quickly and efficiently, while also safeguarding crucial systems from malicious attacks

A patch is a line of code that defines how a platform, application, or operating system behaves. Developers typically release patches as needed to fix errors in code, add new features, or enhance the performance of existing features. Therefore, patches are not new applications, platforms, or operating systems, as developers always release them as updates to existing software. Together with system reconfiguration and software updates, patch management, is an essential subset of vulnerability management and IT lifecycle management.

Well, shall we start with Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits.

Patch Management Best Practices

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All in all, patch management best practices are essential for application security and system performance. Here are some of the best approaches for patch management:

1. Create Patch Management Policies

Policies of patch management help to establish timeframes, procedures, and routines for an effective patching process. Some beneficial patch management policies include:

  • Timing: Patches deployed during weekends, lunch breaks, or evenings can reduce business interruption. Proper timing enables the organization to achieve maximum continuity.
  • Criteria: Knowing what, when, and under what circumstances your organization will implement patches is essential.
  • Notification: Configure the system to be notify you of any required patches and system failures.

2. Consolidate and Inventory Your System

Making a comprehensive inventory of all hardware and software within your organization is crucial to your patch management process. You will only know which patches are vital to your systems once you understand what you must protect.

List all operating systems, devices, and software that your organization uses. Hence, your system may have legacy systems that you need to replace with newer technology. Additionally, not all software updates itself automatically, and risks may increase if you use third party applications. Include security applications such as firewalls and antivirus and their configurations and versions. Remember to update this list regularly.

3. Classify and Assign Risk Levels

Depending on your inventory results, several patches may already be overdue. To guarantee efficient deployment, classify your assets first. Then, assign risk levels to each category to determine which patches are the most important to deploy. In turn, this process helps admins to determine which system needs immediate Patching and which can wait.

Allocating risk levels allows you to prioritize the order of your patch deployments. Besides, patching low level concerns first threaten your system security and wastes time.

4. Check for Vendor Patch Announcements

Vendor Patch notifications is another check you must keep up with regarding vendor patch announcements. For instance, during Patch Tuesday, Microsoft releases large patches for Microsoft Office, Windows 10, Windows 7, and other Microsoft software. Other software vendors, such as Oracle and Adobe, also release updates on the second Tuesday of the month.

Not only do software vendors publish updates, but they also provide notifications sent through email. Many software vendors also maintain databases to search available patches quickly.

5. Automate Patching

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Automating this process is the most efficient way to keep up to date with current software patches. Consequently, automated patch management tools are the simplest method of ensuring you apply patches quickly once they are available.

6. Prepare for Patch Exceptions

The more vulnerable an item is to attack, the quicker you should patch it. However, if you can’t apply a patch immediately, you may require modifications to enable the patch to function.

7. Test Patches First

Worth nothing, that a bad patch can expose your system to new security vulnerabilities or break parts of your system. Testing those before applying them helps ensure patches are working correctly.

8. Create a Backup

It is standard procedure to create a backup of your production environment before making essential system changes. Please run complete systems backups that include all alterations, data, or customization you have made to existing software.

If your patch deployment is unsuccessful, having a backup plan will restore your systems to their original, unpatched state.

9. Apply Patches Immediately

Once you have completed testing and backups, you can apply patches following your organization’s policies. Prioritize operating system patches since allowing system vulnerabilities to stay untreated negatively affects your enterprise and sensitive data.

10. Document New Patch Applications

Always classify and document which patches you applied, and communicate operational or system changes to stakeholders and staff. Maintaining accurate records helps reduce the confusion about whether you applied a patch appropriately.

11. Centralized Patch Management

Centralized patch management employs a central server that examines network hardware for missing patches, downloads the patches, and distributes them across the computers and other machines on the network in line with the organization’s patch management policy.

A centralized patch management server achieves more than just automatic  management. It also gives the organization control over this process. For instance, if admins determine a patch to be problematic, the organization configure the software to block the patch from downloading and installing.

Up next with Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits is to talk about the Patch Management process. 

How to Conduct Patch Management (Patch Management Process)

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Patch management differs depending on whether IT admins are applying a patch to a system on a corporate network or a stand alone system. The applications and operating system will regularly perform automatic checks on a stand-alone system to identify available patches. New patches will typically download and install automatically.

The process has a series of uniform steps:

Assessment

Assessment is the first step. IT admins should locate and define the software to be assessed for vulnerabilities at this stage. The next step is to evaluate each software for vulnerabilities, creating a report to determine which software requires Patching.

Prioritize Patches

Once you have collected data on which systems and software are potentially unsafe or weakened. In this process stage, the IT teams do three things to determine what will happen in the next step.

  • Assign value. Since you have already determined which assets are crucial, prioritizing every asset for investigation should be relatively straightforward.
  • Gauge the threat exposure. This requires you to perform some research and investigation to determine the risk amount for each.
  • Include threat context in your report. Using a robust collection of endpoint security tools and communicating with your IT teams are invaluable.

Act on the Information

The information collected in the prioritization stage offers you three options:

  • You accept the security risk of the vulnerable software to your system. This is a possible option for non critical systems or software, and the risk of exposure is shallow.
  • You develop a technique to make it impossible or difficult for an intruder to exploit the vulnerability. This strategy does not eliminate the vulnerability, but the policies you put in place protect your systems.
  • You completely fix the vulnerability. This is the best option if the vulnerability is high risk and is part of your organization’s essential software or system.

Reassess

After you have prioritized your list and allocated actions based on the extent of exposure, it is time to check and reassess your work. A reassessment informs you whether the actions you settled on have been successful and if there are any issues around the same software. Reassessment enables you to validate your work while also helping you to report metrics of your team’s patch management efforts.

Benefits of Patch Management

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IT administrators are always constantly looking for ways to make software patching error free and more effective. You can achieve this by implementing automated and centralized solutions. Let us take a look at some of the main benefits of patch management.

Improved Endpoint Security

Firstly, this process enables you to be more efficient and uniformly and instantly patch all the systems in your IT framework. With this method, you’ll be able to deploy timely patches to multiple systems while keeping them safe against critical vulnerabilities.

You schedule patch deployment to each of your vulnerable systems as soon as a bug fix, newer application version, or bug fix becomes available. Importantly, patch management allows you to distribute software updates to target systems uniformly. Timely patch management reduces the chances of exposing your system to cyber attacks.

Eliminate Manual Errors

When you combine the complexity of system configurations, the application portfolio, the diverse nature of IT infrastructure as well as the different enterprise procedures and policies, it’s evident that manual patching results in errors. All these manual errors reduce when you use an automated approach to patch management.

Automatic patch management enables you to schedule updates depending on whichever patches you want updates to, whichever systems you wish to update, and at whichever time is most convenient.

Improve IT Productivity

Having up-to-date programs and systems will reduce the downtime or bugs you have due to the system applying patches incorrectly or not applying them at all. A patch improvs productivity by ensuring your strategies are up to date with the newest codes.

Compliance

Regulatory bodies require companies to implement patching to counter the ever increasing cyber threats. Failure to adhere could potentially result in legal penalties for your enterprise. Patch management ensures that your business stays compliant with these regulations. By regularly updating their systems, organizations ensures, that they are compliant with the latest industry or government standards: such as HIPAA, SOX, or GDPR. 

Remote Protection

Currently, enterprises around the world are encouraging remote working, with 70% of employees worldwide working from home at least once a week. To protect yourself, you should implement patch management as a component of a remote workforce support solution to secure all of your company’s machines, regardless of their location.

Innovation

Keeping up with the newest updates and technologies is crucial in today’s world as it constantly evolves. Patch management ensures you have the most current software with the latest features that could benefit your business.

Thank you for reading Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits. We shall now conclude. 

Patch Management Best Practices, Process and Benefits Conclusion

The goal of patch management is to ensure systems in a network are up to date. This ensures your systems are secure against various vulnerabilities and malware that might significantly affect performance. Following the best practices of patch management helps organizations ensure their software is up-to-date, secure from vulnerabilities, and operating optimally. By regularly assessing the patching needs of their systems, identifying any gaps in existing protection, and taking steps to address those gaps accordingly, organizations ensures a more and installing software patches to ensure the security of applications and operating systems across an organization.

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Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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