It’s no surprise that modern enterprises will experience cyber threats. Organizations can mitigate the risk through best practices such as enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), knowing the indicators of phishing, and layering security measures. However, patch management is one of the most important (yet neglected) security tasks for many companies.
Practicing effective and regular patch management protects your devices and sensitive information. But what exactly is patch management, and how do you successfully implement it into your cybersecurity strategy?
What is Patch Management?
In simplified terms, patch management is the systematic process of finding errors (often referred to as “bugs” or “vulnerabilities”) and applying updates to the software. Patches can be applied to operating systems, applications, and embedded systems.
Patching is one piece of vulnerability management – the cyclical process of identifying, classifying, remediating, and mitigating the security risks and vulnerabilities of your programs. This process should be an ongoing part of your cybersecurity plan. According to Ponemon Institute, 57% of data breaches are attributed to poor patch management, and organizations are often taking longer to test and roll out patches.
Keeping up with patch management has been a challenge for organizations, especially those with a limited IT staff. Software that is considered unpatched is more likely to be susceptible to cyberattacks. Immuniweb noted that over 75% of web servers scanned have exploitable vulnerabilities.
The patch management cycle includes steps such as reviewing updates from software vendors, scanning the network for vulnerabilities, identifying missing patches, deploying patches as needed, and evaluating status reports.
Why is Patch Management Important?
With the threat of cyberattacks, viruses, malware, and ransomware constantly changing, it is vital that your network is updated with the latest patches to reduce your risk of a breach that ends with data theft, legal issues, and reputation damage to your company. Patching not only provides an extra layer of security, but it also improves productivity, supports compliance, and inspires innovation.
- Security: An increased level of security is one of the most apparent benefits of good patch management. In many cases, patches are developed after another company experiences a data breach.
- Productivity: Systems that are fully updated and properly patched tend to be more efficient and have fewer bugs and crashes. This improves your team’s productivity by minimizing the time spent on mitigating damage caused by breaches.
- Compliance: The requirements of compliance are constantly evolving to keep up with modern technology. Although government institutions, healthcare services, and financial sectors are the most heavily regulated, more industries are following suit. Not being compliant can result in significant legal and financial penalties.
- Innovation: New features and functionality of systems can increase innovation and efficiency once fully adopted. These are often implemented through new patches, allowing you to streamline processes and perform activities you’ve never been able to do before.
Best Practices for Patch Management
Effective patch management can be daunting and time consuming, but it is absolutely essential in keeping your business secure and efficient. These recommendations outline a few important aspects of patching:
- Education: Make sure your staff is aware of the importance of patch management and why you are establishing it. Set clear expectations and communicate the process. Employees may be prompted to restart their computers so the updates can finish installing. Although it seems inconvenient, it is important to not delay the patching process so that the network stays protected.
- Choose the right software: Selecting the right system for your company is important. Understanding the software and being comfortable managing it is almost as important as patch management itself.
- Rapid response and application: When bugs are spotted in your software, a fast and efficient response is crucial. Edgescan reports that it takes most companies almost two months to mitigate critical vulnerabilities. Creating a patching process will help decrease your average response time and streamline the deployment of critical patches.
- Patch testing: Routinely checking your current patches and software for bugs or vulnerabilities is a great way of practicing proactive patch management and decreasing your risk of a cyberattack.
Do you know where the weaknesses in your network lie? Vulnerabilities in your systems due to unpatched software can lead to massive complications for your network including downtime, compromised data, or even loss of business. Partnering with a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) like Valeo Networks can ensure that best practices are followed, and patches are deployed on a regular basis.
Do you need help with patch management for your organization? Valeo Networks offers solutions to ensure your systems are up to date, secure, and efficient at all times. Our network vulnerability assessments give you a comprehensive view of where your systems are falling short. Contact us to see how we can help!