Vulnerability management is complex and can sometimes overwhelm IT security teams. This is because of the ever-increasing Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) in the threat landscape that can impact various systems and applications.
The best way to handle vulnerability management’s complexity is by enforcing patch management policies. With the right policy and structure, software programs will be free of various performance and security issues.
What is a Patch Management Policy?
A patch management policy is a document that summarizes a firm’s formal strategy. The document helps ensure the hardware and software updates are applied in a timely manner across the IT infrastructure.
What Do Firms Require a Patch Management Policy?
Effective patch management helps rectify and remediate security gaps, that can otherwise allow attackers to compromise the systems and data within an IT environment.
Patch management is vital for facilitating risk-based vulnerability management. It is essential for formal IT security compliance standards such as ISO-270001, PCI-DSS, and SOC-2.
A robust policy will ensure that the updates are performed as outlined in the standard procedures. It also specifies clear roles and obligations for all parties involved.
Checklist for a Patch Management Policy
1. Have an Asset Inventory
Having an asset inventory will help firms track hardware and software assets that require patching. This way, it becomes easy to identify and close security gaps. Accompany asset inventory and tracking with categorization and reporting to seek details about the available and gain complete visibility of the environment.
2. Choose the Right Patch Management Platform
As the security gaps increase, continuous monitoring, effective patch management, and a proactive approach to security are essential. Firms spend more time with manual processes than responding to vulnerabilities, leading to a massive response backlog.
Hence, when choosing patch management software, automation is the key aspect to look for. An automated patch management software will save time and money. It will empower the teams to focus on other high-priority tasks.
Given the high importance placed on vulnerability detection accuracy, firms should look for automated solutions that deliver highly accurate and real-time vulnerability detection.
As per a recent report by Qualys, “2023 QUALYS TRURISK RESEARCH REPORT,”
The patch management solutions must also have robust reporting and analytics capabilities to provide actionable insights for addressing identified security gaps. Firms can minimize the cost of ownership by selecting solutions that prioritize easy deployment and automation.
As per a recent report by Syxsense, “2023 State of Vulnerability Management,”
3. Test the Patches
It is recommended to create a test environment replicating the surrounding production environment. It must include the systems that has servers covering all the mission-critical programs.
For small businesses that cannot conduct a testing phase, deploy the patch updates to the least critical servers that could be easily recovered in case of system failure.
Hence, determining non-critical servers and endpoints for patch testing is essential. If there are no issues, continue to deploy the patches to the entire environment.
Note: The patches released and tested by the vendors may not match the firm’s environment. This factor must be taken care of before testing the patches.
4. Devise a Patching Schedule and Document the Patching Process
Developing and implementing a patch management schedule ensures that all the software is up-to-date and is protected from potential risks and threats. This way, the systems are clean and secured. Moreover, firms can ensure the patches are applied regularly and on time.
At the same time, keeping a summary of the patching status is essential. Documenting the patching process will give firms a complete picture of the patching status. It also helps detect if any of the endpoints are missing a specific patch.
These reports will help firms become fully compliant. Moreover, it has insights to what takes place in the environment. This gives them the room to adjust patch management policy accordingly.
Patch management can be complex, involving compatibility testing, scheduling downtime. Patch management policies help ensure that business software and underlying infrastructure are free of bugs and vulnerabilities and deliver the most value possible to the enterprise.
Create patch management policies that-
- supports risk management
- eliminates majority of the security risks
- includes well-documented procedures
- include results for chronological review and auditing