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According to TechTarget, a software patch is a “quick-repair job for a piece of programming designed to resolve functionality issues, improve security and add new features.” Although similar to a hotfix, which users can apply without having to restart their software, a software patch updates a small component of the software to fix a bug or error discovered after the product launch.

As I’m sure you already know, there is no such thing as a perfect software program, therefore patches are very common, even many years after a program has been launched. The more popular a program is, the more probably rare problems occur, and so some of the most popular programs are some of the most patched. So, we can say that a patch, commonly known as a fix, is a small piece of software that is used to redress a problem, generally called a bug, or an error, within an operating system or software program.

Do You Need to Install Software Patches?

Although the main purpose of a software patch is to fix bugs, it can also address security vulnerabilities and instabilities in a software piece. Turning a blind eye to these crucial updates can leave your devices open to malware attacks that the patch is intended to prevent.
Some patches aren’t so critical but still important, adding new features or pushing updates to hardware drivers. So, to make it clear, avoiding patches will leave the software outdated, at a greater risk of attacks, and most likely incompatible with newer devices and software.

What’s more, a software patch is extremely important as it confronts known vulnerabilities. When a vendor releases a security update, it alerts the hacker community that there’s a vulnerability in that particular software. At that moment, attackers begin looking for unpatched copies of the software to exploit it. Luckily for you, our Heimdal Patch & Asset Management ensures that hackers don’t use these vulnerabilities to break into your corporate network. The sooner your organization installs the security patch, the more quickly it can protect itself against the associated vulnerability.

The Importance of Patch Management

It’s also essential for both users and organizations to implement patch management. What is patch management? As previously explained in my colleague’s patch management overview, it is a procedure that plays a significant role in ensuring strong organizational protection. For most users and their devices, effective patch management can be as simple as enabling automatic updates.

Nowadays, more and more organizations have implemented patch management policies that decide how to estimate and use software patches. These policies usually set the time frame within which IT must apply the patch and how to check it to ensure it will not cause compatibility issues for the organization.

So, why is it crucial to keep security patches up to date?

#1. It reduces the risks of cyberattacks

Most users perceive cyberattacks as an impossibility until they become a real threat. They feel like a cyberattack comes on the spur of the moment, without warning, but quite often, the best patch management software is available before cyber attackers exploit a vulnerability and manipulate it to infiltrate systems.

#2. It avoids the loss of productivity

It may seem unexpected, but another consequence of cyberattacks is the productivity loss that arises from system recess. To this extent, a cyberattack can result in two types of monetary losses — the cost of patching systems and the cost of delayed projects and unproductive employees.

#3 It protects your data

Never underestimate the value of the data stored on your devices. Hackers can and will use personal information to gain access to as many systems as possible, especially if they obtain login information from someone who uses the same credentials for more services.

#4 It protects customer data

Business owners are responsible for safeguarding the information users entrust to their systems. Companies that fail to live up this standard can face severe consequences. Let us remember the case of Equifax, which the Federal Trade Commission has ordered to provide $125 or 10 years of free credit monitoring for having exposed the personal information of 147 million people back in 2017.

#5 It protects others on your network

A virus infiltrated into a computer network can quickly spread to auxiliary devices that are connected to your network. Thus, one unpatched system or incautious user can trigger severe consequences to a whole network of systems.

If you’re still not convinced of the importance of security patches, maybe you should read down-to-earth software patching advice from 15 top cybersecurity experts to make software updates and patches part of your digital routine. If they won’t persuade you to take great care of your online data, probably no one else will.

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Wrapping it up…

Software patches are among the most critical tools users and organizations have for adequate cybersecurity. I can assure you that a fully updated system is one of the best defenses against vulnerabilities. Keep in mind that it’s always a smart choice to enable automatic updates for your OS and applications.

If you’re a manager of larger networks, you have a bit more work to do to keep your systems patched with the latest updates. You must pay close attention to the network’s needs, decreasing or clearing downtime for critical systems. You will need to implement software patch management best practices, test them appropriately and cautiously establish any potential impacts they may have.

Author Profile

Cezarina Dinu

Head of Marketing Communications & PR

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Cezarina is the Head of Marketing Communications and PR within Heimdal® and a cybersecurity enthusiast who loves bringing her background in content marketing, UX, and data analysis together into one job. She has a fondness for all things SEO and is always open to receiving suggestions, comments, or questions.

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