If there’s one guarantee in cybersecurity, it’s that all software has bugs or compromises. As part of a cybersecurity strategy, patch management is an easy way to create a robust defense against possible attacks and secure end-to-end coverage of your devices. Patches help businesses like yours avoid or address very critical issues -- like Meltdown and Spectre vulnerability -- and can help you maintain operational efficiency where it counts.
However, if you’re new to or behind on your patching, patch management can easily become tedious or confusing. This may prompt inconsistencies in how and when you patch, which can sink even more of your time and resources. The quality or age of your patches can also affect how effective they are: for example, some patches can break existing applications, cause disruptions, or expose you to more vulnerabilities. Even big name corporations like Microsoft can feel the effects, as evidenced earlier this month when some of their PCs fell victim to poor software patch deployment.
Whether you’re a tech giant or small business, patches are a crucial element of your network’s healthy infrastructure. You can easily add patch management to your cybersecurity strategy by trying these three steps:
Step #1: Invest in a Patch Management System
Whether you already have a patch management strategy in place or aren’t sure where to start, a patch management solution like IBM’s BigFix, MAAS 360, or Symantec’s Altiris makes it even easier to execute a patching strategy that meets your business’ security needs and covers your software and devices.
Keeping track of a security patch or similar critical updates across your company’s infrastructure can easily become overwhelming without a dedicated patch management solution. Systems like IBM’s BigFix or MAAS360 make patching effective with features that can schedule patches or test patch cycles before they’re deployed. By contrast, basic automated updates are much harder to manage or test, and can often conflict with other updates or patches.
When shopping for a patch management system, consider products that can help you set patch priorities, manage assets, and control specific user access.
Step #2: Develop a Patch Management Policy
Many businesses consider patch management to be an afterthought and, as a result, may not dedicate the time or resources their patch management process requires. By creating a patch management policy, businesses can clearly specify the details of their own patch management processes by designating and defining responsibilities, time requirements, and strategy.
One way to start developing your own patch management is policy is to analyze and take note of your specific security needs and current IT resources. This can help you build a schedule, prioritize your patches, and determine your best patch management practices.
Remember: the most successful patch management strategy is a relevant one! As your security needs change, so should your patch management policy. Make a commitment to review your patch management strategy every six months to a year.
Step #3: Improve Patch Education
Once you have your patch management system and policy, it’s time to update your users! Your IT team should be informed of all changes to patch management strategy to ensure that the best policies are being enforced.
Education can include:
● training your team to use your patch management solution
● making sure your team understands the importance of patching
● explaining your patching schedule and why certain patches may be prioritized over others
● explaining the consequences of not patching, and why unpatched software is a major vulnerability
● teaching how systems are patched
● how to recognize and avoid authorizing fake or malicious patches
A team that is more informed about the benefits of patching (or the consequences of not patching often or properly) can make better decisions around patch management policy and can alert you or your IT department head of any incoming issues.
Patching doesn’t have to be a weak link in your security defense. With a few steps, you can build a simple patch management strategy that benefits your business and supports your overall cybersecurity strategy.