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What is patch management ?

The world of work has undergone several transformations in recent years. We are thinking in particular of the massive arrival of digital technologies in our workplaces, and its recent intensification due to the pandemic and teleworking. It is no longer a secret that to be successful in the marketplace, you have to take advantage of technology and the digital world, with all its advantages and disadvantages.

Consequently, it is also no surprise that for the majority of small and large businesses today, a guarantee of success is the health of their IT equipment: up-to-date, well-functioning, organized and, of course, functional technologies.

A large part of the functional state of your operating systems is due to the deployment of various patches to rectify any security breaches, bugs or risks of any kind, including cyber-attacks. Here’s why patch management is important to your business and how to get the most out of it.

What is patch management ?

It refers to all processes aimed at managing security breaches by testing and installing a security patch on your applications or software. It includes software and system updates. All of these means and automated or non-automated patch management allow your digital production environment to remain up-to-date and, therefore, better protected against cyber threats.

The best practices encourage you to take an inventory of your hardware and existing patches already installed, to find the best ones for your situation and test them after deployment. 

What are the three most common types ?

Several types of patch management exist, without the typical user being aware of it. Nevertheless, the three most common types are

  • A security patch;
  • A bug fix;
  • A feature update.

You encounter several types of patch management every day, perhaps even without being aware of it. While the practice is common, it often goes unnoticed by users who are unaware of its potential. This is why more companies would benefit from knowing more about patch management.

What is an example of patch management ?

To give you an example, one immediately thinks of Microsoft, which regularly patches its operating systems (such as Windows and its Office365 applications). Their formula systematically sends updates to its users, who should apply them as soon as possible (or even immediately depending on the degree of urgency).

What are the four steps of the process ?

There is no one right way to practise patch management. However, it is important to stay informed and organized, as the idea of “managing” such an area – patching and the cybersecurity of your organization and its data – implies. Here are the main steps in an effective process:

  1. Inventory your hardware:
    the first step before looking for vulnerabilities, patches or patch management tools is to know your computer system inside out. List the versions of your systems in addition to the installed applications. Various software can help you to do this.

  2. Detecting vulnerabilities or security breaches in your business systems:
    once you have made an inventory of your hardware, you can finally know where to look for the necessary patches, which ones to apply, the level of urgency, etc. This step allows you to determine the scope of your search according to your company’s needs and what is relevant to it. This filtering, or targeting, is based particularly on the previous step. If your computer fleet consists only of Windows systems, there is no point in searching for defects that attack Linux systems. Keep an eye on the patches available to you and those required by regulation. For most large products such as Adobe, Windows, Office, etc., this is a fairly simple step. However, for smaller-scale applications or websites, a manual search for updates from the vendor may be required. Link the assets to the appropriate and relevant patches according to the identified vulnerability.

  3. Adopt a patch management strategy:
    you are finally at the stage of finding a patch management solution. Put in place a clear timeline and process to get your plan up and running in the most consistent way possible.

  4. Follow up after the patch management is launched:
    make sure you check that downloaded patches, patched applications or deployed updates are working properly.

Do these steps regularly, to prevent risks rather than manage attacks! To carry out and maintain your process, several web-based tools exist.

What is a patch management tool ?

A patch management tool helps you to more easily identify your IT assets and to know which patches are applied when available.

Patch management can be an extremely time-consuming operation, in addition to leading to human error if it is done manually. This is why the use of a software can sometimes be very useful. It can help you eliminate redundant and non-value-added tasks. Patch management tools include:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • Unix
  • For smaller companies with limited IT equipment, a simple Excel file can do the trick!

Be sure to list, either manually or through these tools

  • Your operating systems;
  • The versions of these systems;
  • The applications used;
  • The configuration of these applications;
  • IP address.

Why automate patch management procedures ?

  • As soon as a weakness is detected in a server, application or website, cybercriminals are already exploiting it to try to infiltrate your information and data. By automating patch deployment, you can ensure that you are always on the lookout and quick to close any security holes that may have opened.
  • Increase your productivity: by moving away from the time-consuming manual task of patch management, you can focus on the operations that really need your attention and that have added value when you do them manually.
  • Reduce the risk of errors: because patch management procedures can be redundant and time-consuming, human errors easily creep into the process. By automating patch deployment, you are less likely to make mistakes.
  • Improve your customer experience.
  • By preventing security breaches in your operating systems, patch management not only saves time, but also your money in the event of data theft or corruption.

What are the best practices in patch management ?

  • If the level of urgency is significant, the patches in question should be deployed immediately so that cybercriminals have no chance to take advantage of a vulnerability and infiltrate your servers.
  • Update your antivirus software as often as possible to fix it. You should look for patches once a day.
  • Stay alert and up-to-date on digital security news feeds so you don’t miss an update, as well as better judge the rate of importance of deploying available patches (prioritize which software patches to initiate).
  • Patch your hardware regularly! To effectively manage your patches and the security of your organization, you must make patch management a daily priority.
  • Use patch management as a service outside your company to help you with this process. External patching services ensure maximum security while you focus on other critical activities.

In a nutshell, patch management is a cycle that keeps your hardware safe. If software vendors and publishers have an obligation, when a defect is identified, to provide the necessary fixes and inform users that an update will need to be deployed, how do you ensure that the targeted problems are fixed? This is what patch management is for. It allows you to:

  •  Identify vulnerabilities;
  •  Examine possible patches;
  •  Design a strategy;
  •  Confirm and deploy patches;
  •  Restore the system;
  •  Analyze the correct functioning of the formula.

Deploying and applying patches are most often the responsibility of the operations team or vendors, who are responsible for maintaining the security of systems and keeping them up to date. Nevertheless, patch management becomes essential whether you are a digital technology professional or not, as security breaches affect all users. You are not immune: some flaws or faults affect your information systems, of course, but also connected objects and applications.

In the context of patch management, the only “way” to keep abreast of vulnerabilities and available patches is to do careful research, by keeping a close watch on publishers’ websites or specialized sites. Most of the time, when a vulnerability is identified, a publisher release the information related to its discovery with the corresponding patch.

Nevertheless, it remains difficult to undertake a patch management process independently, especially when you do not have any particular IT skills. That is why DMIB and its team of experts are here to help you deal with the little-known but important issue of patch management. Call or write to our specialists to make your entry into the world of patch management in good form: cyber threats and criminals do not wait. To thwart them, act fast and choose our professional and specialized patch management service. We care about your company’s cyber security.

Contact our specialists !