Patch Management: Definition, Working, Need, Best Practices

What is Patch Management?

Patch management involves analyzing computers, mobile devices, or other network equipment for missing software updates, known as "fixes," and resolving the issue by delivering such patches as soon as they become available. Patches are pieces of code placed (or patched) into an existing software program's code. It is usually used as a stop-gap solution until a new complete release of the program is ready.

How Does Patch Management Work?

Patches are provided by software firms when they become aware of an existing vulnerability to prevent external agents from exploiting that vulnerability to access your corporate network. Patch management entails identifying which patches are required and when they should be implemented on a system.

Patch management is the process of procuring, testing, and implementing numerous code revisions to computer systems to keep them up to date. The procedure also selects the relevant patches for each software package and schedules the patch installation across many computers.

An individual team or algorithmic software governs which tools require patches and fixes are required in patch management. Installation may frequently be performed on a central administrative machine and then replicated across all other devices. Patches may need to be installed individually on various devices in some circumstances- especially if the fixes are for software that is only installed on a few PCs.

Patches are required to ensure that systems are patched, up to date, and protected from security vulnerabilities and defects found in the program. Failure to fix renders a network doubly exposed - not only is the security risk present, but it has now been disclosed, increasing the likelihood of it being exploited by evil users, hackers, and virus authors.

What is the Need for Patch Management?

From time to time fixing of vulnerability or fault found after releasing a program or software is necessary. Patches that are newly published can correct a bug or a security fault, help to enhance apps with new features, and solve security vulnerabilities.

Unpatched software can make a device a target for attacks. It is essential to patch software to prevent malware access as soon as a patch is issued.

Path management is vital due to the following reasons −

  • Security – Patch management resolves flaws in your software and apps that make them vulnerable to cyber-attacks, assisting your firm in lowering its security risk.

  • System uptime – System uptime is supported by patch management, which guarantees that your software and applications are maintained up to date and running correctly.

  • Compliance – As the number of cyber-attacks continues to climb, firms are frequently compelled by regulatory agencies to maintain a particular degree of compliance. Patch management is an essential component of conforming to compliance rules.

  • Feature improvements – Patch management can extend beyond software bug fixes to include feature/functionality updates. Patches can ensure that you have the most up-to-date product version.

Best Practices for Patch Management

Here is a set of Best Practices that you can use for a smooth Patch Management process −

  • Set clear goals for your teams and hold them responsible. It is essential to understand why patch management is a key component of a cybersecurity solution. Responding quickly to the most recent patch releases would deny and defend susceptible systems from zero-day attacks. Using organizational agreements, such as service contracts, may keep teams on track and guarantee that the task of risk reduction is completed.

  • To guarantee a common language, collaborate with technical teams. Software faults are frequently referred to as a "risk" by security teams, whereas IT/DevOps teams may use the phrase "patch." A suitable patch management method requires that everyone is on the same page and understands the necessity of patching.

  • Create a disaster recovery plan. It is ideal to have a backup plan if your patch management procedure fails and causes problems.

  • The result of a delayed patch application. Delays in patch applications have a significant impact, resulting in massive security breaches. The most recent Wannacry assault highlighted the risk of not upgrading software with patch updates. The victims of Wannacry were those who delayed upgrading the Windows patch to remedy the SMB v1 protocol vulnerability, resulting in data and economic loss.

  • Using managed service providers (MSP). Patch management software is available to meet the needs of any organization, large or small. MSPs take complete responsibility for the patch management process, allowing organizations to focus on management and revenue generation.

  • Patch testing deployment. Certain patches are incompatible with specific operating systems or programs, resulting in system crashes. IT administrators should perform a patch test before deploying patches to endpoint systems.