In comparison with Windows, Linux it’s different in areas such as features, flexibility, operationality, and ease of use. Naturally, due to this fact, we can assume that there must exist differences between the patching and patch management operations of the two OS. Today, we will take a deep dive into the process of Linux patch management, exploring what are its advantages, its challenges, and the key differences between Linux patching and patching machines running other operating systems.

What is Patch Management in Linux?

Linux patch management is the process of installing and maintaining software updates in a Linux environment, both OS related and 3rd party. It is a critical part of system administration, as it helps to keep systems secure and up to date with the latest security fixes and features.

In general, patch management can be described as the process of acquiring, reviewing, and deploying software updates to a company’s IT infrastructure. Patches are pieces of additional software code that can be implemented into an installed program to fulfil a certain purpose, whether it be an improvement in the security of the system, in its overall performance, or adding a new feature to a pre-installed program or software piece.

Patching on Linux

If your company is running Linux, you’ve chosen them for a few good reasons: Linux is powerful, reliable, open-source, and fully customizable. Allowing so many customizations makes the patching process on Linux machines to be different, not only from other operating systems but also from one Linux system to another. Patching across your entire fleet of Linux machines is not always straightforward, but there are some recommended best practices that if followed will allow you to implement a successful patch management strategy for Linux devices.

As with any other operating system, Linux requires regular updates to ensure that it stays vulnerability-free, bug-free, and up-to-date with the latest available features. Unlike Windows, which relies on patching flows, Linux, it’s all about repositories. Repositories are storage locations for Linux which contain essential and popular software.

Repositories represent a big challenge when it comes to Linux patch management, as they are available for anyone – with enough coding experience – to contribute. Keep in mind that not all the repositories are open-source, restricted and multiverse repositories, which contain proprietary drivers and software with copyright issues, are not open to the public. There are thousands of available repositories, and going through each one is a troublesome, nearly impossible task. An automated patching solution is required.

Another vital phase in patching Linux machines is the degree of confidence in the patching. This is a challenge because, unlike Windows or macOS, rolling back a Linux machine after patching can be difficult. Be sure to have a rollback process created to restore the systems to a previous version. Similarly, when the kernel needs an update, the administrator must decide between patching live life and taking the machines offline.

Linux Patching Best Practices and Strategies

Patch scheduling, priority, regular updates, and receiving patches from reliable sources are among the best practices for implementing a Linux patch management solution.

The easiest way to put these practices into practice is to establish a set of standard procedures for patching, which are tested and written-down instructions on how to patch your Linux. Here is a summary of the top patching techniques.make

Separate Critical Patches from Performance-Based Updates

Security-related patches should be applied right away, while other types should be examined first. Like any other piece of software, general software and system updates might have bugs and other problems. It is advisable to test patches in a virtual environment before deploying them across your business’s infrastructure.


Testing is a crucial step in the patch management process. Patches, especially those containing security changes, must be checked both before and after deployment regardless of the target OS. Most fixes made available by third-party developers are reviewed and verified for security before being made public.

However, before patches and updates are applied to the entire network, IT administrators and the SOC team typically conduct additional tests on them (administrators typically run operational tests on patches and compare the results to a benchmark, while the SOC performs testing on security/vulnerability-specific issues).

The kernel evaluation stage of the pre-deployment testing procedure is very important. As a general guideline, avoid altering kernels, or more precisely, avoid changing kernels for drivers, programs, or hotfixes that aren’t being used. For instance, it’s preferable to simply discontinue using that piece of equipment rather than making the transition if an outdated network card driver needs a kernel patch to obtain an update.

Create an Asset Inventory

To keep track of the configurations of your systems and know which hardware, software, and OS versions are in use, it is advisable to create an asset inventory to have a better understanding and have a much greater response time if problems appear.

Analyse the Risk Levels and Assign Priorities

Setting priorities and identifying goals for patching are crucial steps in the patch management process. It’s crucial to identify the software that has to be patched and establish a plan to avoid confusion and enable auditing procedures.

Automate Linux Patching

Probably the most important and useful practice is to automate your patch management process for Linux. As I said before, trying to manually patch Linux machines in your IT systems can be a real challenge with the sheer amount of repositories and distributors available on the internet.

With automated patch management software, you can be sure that the vulnerabilities and threat actors will not interfere with your systems. Heimdal® Security’s Patch & Asset Management may come to your help, as it is a complete, all-encompassing patch management solution that can inventory hardware and software assets, uncover historical vulnerabilities, and patch current Linux applications. Patches, updates, and hotfixes from proprietary, third-party, and OS-specific sources are all supported by the solution.

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Linux patch management may not be the most appealing or easy process, but it sure brings a lot of advantages to your business. Linux systems are highly reliable and have a great level of security. Probably the biggest advantage when it comes to operating Linux is the endless possibilities it offers, for it is a fully customizable OS that will fit exactly the needs of your business. Stay tuned for more articles on patching, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with Heimdal®.

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