Understanding the Automated Patch Management Process
What It Is and How Can We Benefit from It. Best Practices of Automated Patch Management.
There are premises outside of economic implications that draw attention to the importance of Automated Patch Management processes. Keeping systems well informed about the newly-released patches is no longer just a recommendation. It’s a necessity.
As defined by our Cybersecurity Glossary, patch management refers to the activity of getting, testing, and installing software patches for a network and the systems in it. Patch management includes applying patches both for security purposes and for improving the software programs used in the network and the systems within it.
Keeping abreast with all necessary patches can turn into a dreary task for your staff to perform on their own. Luckily, Automated Patch Management software allows them to shift their focus from monotonous tasks like manually dealing with patches to less labor-intensive and more interesting activities.
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How Does an Automated Patch Management Solution Work?
- It is used to automate the various stages of the patching process
- It scans the applications of devices for missing patches
- It automates the downloading of missing patches that are released by the application vendors.
- It ensures to automatically deploy patches based on the deployment policies, without any manual interference.
- It reports on the status of the automated patch management tasks that are updated.
With Automated Patch Management, organizations are prepared to upgrade their endpoints with the newest patches regardless of what OS they run and where they are settled.
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Automated vs. Manual Patching
It is nearly impossible to conclude that one trumps the other when evaluating automatic vs manual patching. This is because it is entirely dependent on the context; automatic updating is preferable in some cases, but manual updating is preferable in others.
Here’s how to tell when to utilize which:
Automatic updates are ideal for the following situations:
- Fixes for system flaws that are absolutely necessary;
- Updates to the operating system that have been carefully tested and validated by suppliers;
- Updates that can be readily undone if something goes wrong.
Manual updates are ideal for the following situations:
- Updates for firmware and network switches are unreliable;
- Updates for systems and servers that are crucial to corporate operations (a critical server crashing in the middle of the day is a significant problem).
The idea is to take advantage of risk-free automatic upgrades while simultaneously employing manual procedures as necessary.
Patch management technologies are typically deployed initially to standardized desktop systems and single-platform server farms of servers with comparable configurations. After that, organizations should aim to integrate multiplatform environments, nonstandard desktop systems, older PCs, and computers with unusual setups, which is a more complex task. For operating systems and applications that aren’t supported by automated patching tools, as well as some PCs with odd settings, manual procedures may be required.
Why is Automated Patch Management So Important?
If you’ve never faced a security incident, you might not fully understand the true importance of the patch management process. However, ignoring the risks is never an option, as both small businesses and enterprises can be harmful due to non-existent or delayed patching.
Without any further ado, here is why you should use automated patch management:
#1. It’s secure
I think we can all agree that security is the most important advantage of patch management. Security breaches are generally caused by missing patches in operating systems and other applications. Comprehensive patch management can guard against vulnerabilities across different platforms and OS. By protecting your systems before cybercriminals leverage any flaws, you prevent breaches and avoid compliance issues and reputational damage that frequently accompany organizations affected by cyber-attacks.
#2. It increases productivity
Despite having top-notch technology, computer crashes still happen. And so do malware attacks. This can eventually lead to lower productivity levels. However, a patch reduces the possibility of crashes and downtime, thus allowing employees to carry on with their tasks without interruptions.
#3. It includes new features and functionalities
Contrary to popular belief, patches are not just about fixing flaws. With Automated Patch Management you can tap into the latest innovations of the software. Organizations are always looking for new opportunities to improve or extend their services, so a routine of periodically installing updates and addressing any existing issues should be established.
#4. It complies with the latest security regulations
Cyberthreats have become widespread, therefore regulatory bodies are demanding that businesses apply the latest patches to avoid these attacks. Noncompliance may result in your organization facing legal penalties, so a good patch management strategy is necessary to comply with these standards. An automated patch management solution like our Heimdal Patch & Asset Management ensures you stay within compliance and that you are provided with a complete CVE/CVSS audit trail.
#5. It provides an overview of your business environment
I highly recommend that you stop using software that no longer offers technical support. Frequently, vendors stop providing patches for their software for various reasons – they are working on the next version, the company collapsed and is not producing bug fixes anymore, etc. Patch management helps you identify such software, so you know when to replace it with a new one.
Automated Patch Management Best Practices
Patch management solutions can be affiliated with automation software to enhance configuration and patch precision while downsizing errors. The added capabilities automation provides translate to identifying, testing, and patching systems with decreased manual input.
As I’ve previously stated, the main purpose of automated patch management is to approach the patching process in a proactive manner. Below you will find four prominent aspects that will help you boost your patching efficiency and effectiveness.
#1. Identify systems that are non-compliant, vulnerable, or unpatched.
Today’s IT systems present a challenge because most systems run dozens of different software titles. You can’t know what you need to patch until you know what you have – OS, server applications, and desktop applications.
#2. Prioritize patches based on the potential impact.
Based on the patch rating and configuration of your systems, you need to decide which systems need the patch and how quickly they need to be patched to prevent an exploit.
#3. Patch frequently.
Patches are usually shipped once a month or sooner. Set a regularly scheduled routine every month to patch your systems. You can do it most efficiently all in one big event over a weekend, where all systems are patched.
#4. Test patches before placing them into production.
Before you deploy a patch, you need to test it on a testbed that simulates your production network. All networks and configurations are different, so you need to test for every combination and make sure your network(s) can properly run the patch.
How can Heimdal help you automating the patching process
With Heimdal Security’s patch management software, you can achieve complete patching automation fast and easy. Create assets inventory, achieve compliance, mitigate exploits, close vulnerabilities, deploy updates, and install software anywhere in the world according to any schedule. Our tool covers Linux and Windows – OS updates and 3rd party applications, including custom built in-house software – and comes with customizable set-and-forget settings for automatic deployment of software updates. The newly released patches are ready for deployment to customers in less than 4 hours.
Not only that, but we also provide you with fully tested, repackaged, and ad-free updates using encrypted packages inside HTTPS transfers locally to your endpoints.
By efficiently managing vulnerabilities, you will demonstrate a high ROI and improve your cybersecurity posture within a short timeframe.
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- Schedule updates at your convenience;
- See any software assets in inventory;
- Global deployment and LAN P2P;
- And much more than we can fit in here...
Wrapping It Up…
Conventional security solutions do not have enough capabilities to put an end to security incidents on their own, this is why 3rd-party software and Windows patch management strategies sustained by an ongoing patching process (along with additional layers of enterprise protection like DNS filtering, Privileged Access Management, and Advanced Email Security) become a crucial requirement in today’s threat landscape. Hopefully, I’ve managed to provide you with a useful Automated Patch Management overview and shed some light on the importance of patching. Additionally, if you want to know more about this topic, you can also check out our Patch Tuesday blog section and stay in the loop.