You can’t control the emergence of cyber threats. But you can have complete control over your organization’s vulnerabilities and efficiently manage them. Bad patch management has been one of the reasons behind the largest cyber-attacks to date. Remember the notorious WannaCry ransomware attack? Well, it happened due to unpatched systems that ended up being exploited by malicious hackers. Even though Microsoft had released a security patch that addressed the vulnerability in Windows OS two months before the ransomware attack began, many individuals and organizations alike did not update their systems in time and thus remained exposed.

As the speed of malware propagation increases and the vulnerability-discovery-to-attack time becomes increasingly shorter, how do businesses successfully fight and stop this threat?

Short answer – by having a top-notch patch management process in place.

Patch management is a procedure that has to be performed regularly without exceptions.

Why? Because the risks of delaying the process (or not patching at all) outweigh the effort involved. Inside a network, what it takes is only a single unpatched device, which can lead to a great security hole in your organization.

Patch management plays a significant role in ensuring strong organizational protection. However, by all means, it should not be viewed as the answer to solving all security issues, but as an essential layer of protection for your business, alongside DNS filtering, next-gen Antivirus & Firewall, and Privileged Access Management (PAM).

What is Patch Management?

Here is how we define patch management:

Patch management is a process that involves the acquisition, review, and deployment of patches on an organization’s systems. This practice helps IT staff keep up with newly released patches and make sure the updates are correctly deployed, check their status after deployment, and log the procedure.

What is a patch?

To better understand the patch management process, I’ll first briefly explain what a patch is.

Simply put, a patch is a piece of software code that improves an installed program – you can literally think about it as a “bandage” applied to software. Every time a security flaw is discovered or the program’s functionality needs to be improved, software developers create a patch to address these aspects. The need to completely redesign the program is therefore out of the question.

Generally, software patches can be categorized into three different categories – feature updates, bug fixes, and security updates.

  • Feature patches – they improve software functionality and provide additional capabilities.
  • Bug fix patches – they address certain errors found in software, helping it run smoothly and prevent crashes.
  • Security patches – through security patch management they correct known software vulnerabilities and cover holes in your systems, thus preventing malicious actors from exploiting the flaws and compromising your organization.

Patches can be deployed to your entire infrastructure including software/operating systems, routers, IoT equipment, servers, and more.

What is the purpose of patching?

Now that you’ve understood what patch management is, you may still want to know why it is so important.

Through this process, people (and patch management software) determine whether required patches are available, if they are deployed, and if are running smoothly. Security vulnerabilities and system crashes can easily be prevented if all newly released patches are promptly installed. This is where the concept of patch management comes into play, allowing you to manage patches more efficiently and most importantly, safeguard your organization against cyber threats.

Keeping up with all patches that must be installed can become a tedious task for your staff to perform on their own. Automated Patch Management software lets them shift their focus from dreary tasks like manually dealing with patches to less labor-intensive and more pleasant activities.

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If you’ve never had to deal with a security incident, you might not fully comprehend the importance of the patch management process. However, you must keep in mind that ignoring the risks is not an option, as both small businesses and enterprises can be at high risk due to non-existent or delayed patching.

Here are the benefits of automated patching (in no particular order):

#.1 Increased productivity

Have you ever experienced downtime due to system failures and crashes? Or have you ever been affected by malware?

Maybe not, but this does not mean your organization is highly unlikely to be affected – in other words, don’t fall into the trap of the optimism bias in cybersecurity that many people are experiencing.

With an automated patch management process in place, not only will you avoid the risk of malware and network errors, but you will also gain full visibility inside your IT environment and diligently keep track of vulnerabilities and patches – and the entire process will be fully automated. This means you can schedule the exact time that you want the updates to be installed and benefit from silent software and patches installation, on-the-fly, without any user interruption.

#2. Full compliance

Failing to comply with the latest security regulations may result in your organization facing legal penalties. To become compliant with the current laws, you need to prove that you have taken all the necessary steps. For instance, auditors may need to see if and when patches were applied, thus it is crucial for your business to use the proper system that allows you to fully document the process.

An automated patch management solution like our X-Ploit Resilience ensures you stay within compliance and that you are provided with a complete CVE/CVSS audit trail.

#3. Increased security

Last, but not least, you can be assured your company is safe from a cybersecurity perspective.

Software is never developed without the need to be updated or enhanced. For this reason, as part of the software management and deployment activities in any organization, a routine of periodically installing updates and addressing any existing issues has to be established.

Thus, improved IT security is the most important and visible advantage of enterprise patch management.

The timely deployment of updates decreases the probability of your business becoming affected. By protecting your systems before cybercriminals leverage any flaws in your system, you prevent breaches and avoid compliance issues and reputational damage that frequently accompany organizations affected by cyber-attacks.

Patch Management Best Practices

Creating the optimal patch management strategy starts with evaluating all the necessary steps involved.

Some of the most important ones include:

·       Establishing objectives

Identifying patching goals sets priorities and identifies objectives that are essential during the patch management process. It’s important to determine what software needs to be patched and set up a schedule to eliminate any confusion and allow for auditing practices.

·       Having designated people in charge of patch management

Assigning tasks and duties promotes transparency, provides guidance, and helps your staff follow an organized patch management process.

·       Finding the right automated patch management tool.

Using a good automated enterprise patch management tool is key.

With HeimdalTM Security’s X-Ploit Resilience, you can achieve compliance, mitigate exploits, close vulnerabilities, deploy updates, and install software anywhere in the world, and according to any schedule. Our tool covers both Windows and 3rd party application management and comes with customizable set-and-forget settings for automatic deployment of software and updates.

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 within a short timeframe by gaining the ability to become resistant to vulnerabilities and gain a brand new and improved cybersecurity posture.

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Conclusion

Good patch management is a crucial aspect when it comes to maintaining the security, integrity, and accessibility of the data and systems of every organization and the process should be as thorough as possible. The more you keep up with your patching and update all your critical (and non-critical) systems, the less likely it is that your company will be compromised.

Move beyond server patching software like SCCM/WSUS and antiquated patch management techniques and discover our unique patch deployment solution. Clean up you patch management process and contact us today at sales.inquires@heimdalsecurity.com!

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