Patch management allows businesses to acquire software updates for operating systems and applications and deploy them to eliminate security vulnerabilities, fix bugs or add new features. With many IT assets to manage, achieving successful patching is challenging.
Businesses must employ appropriate steps to keep their software updated, bug-free, and protected from cyber threats. Here are a few steps to help companies to make patch management less stressful and more reliable.
Build a Baseline Inventory
Businesses must establish an updated baseline inventory that comprises all the production systems, operating systems, and applications they use. Creating an operating system and an application inventory is vital.
Software vendors release software updates designed to correct bugs and known vulnerabilities, and hardware vendors release firmware updates to address issues at the hardware level. Hence, businesses must include these firmware insights in the inventory.
Businesses must start with the production systems’ baseline inventory, enabling them to assess the current state of patching internally. They must collate the inventory manually or use automated patch management software.
Plan to Standardize Systems that Share Same Versions
Standardization is an integral part of the patch management process. Multiple versions of an application running during production can increase security risks and support costs. The same applies to numerous versions of an operating system.
Therefore, businesses must determine the version of each application or operating system and devise a plan for standardizing the preferred version. There may be dependencies that need upgradation before deploying the preferred version.
Categorize Assets by Priority and Risk
In the initial patch management process, businesses will identify several upgrades and patches they must apply. Accomplishing all these upgrades and patch deployments at once would be risky.
Therefore, organizations must employ a straightforward methodical approach to the patch management process by assessing the vulnerabilities. The patches can reduce vulnerabilities and prioritize critical updates.
Patches’ design addresses limited security risks. While some risks are minor and some major, businesses must deploy the most critical ones.
Use a Test Lab Environment
There is a high possibility that a patch will cause issues any time businesses deploy them, so organizations must test the patch before deploying it in production.
They must determine whether or not the patch is safe for use in production or if it adversely affects mission-critical software. Even though software vendors perform levels of patch testing, they are anxious to address security vulnerabilities rapidly and may bypass thorough patch testing.
Appoint a Team to Test the Patch Stability
When testing a patch, the security team must confirm its stability. While the security team verifies that the patch addresses the vulnerabilities, they must also ensure it does not introduce any new vulnerabilities.
Businesses must create a policy on how long the security team must test the patches in the lab environment. While companies test the patches as thoroughly as possible, they must balance the testing against the need to address the security vulnerability.
Collate Patch, Vulnerability, and Test Data
After the software testing phase, the security team must collate the list of test patches, the vulnerabilities the patches addressed, and the testing process results. These insights verify the testing process’ completion and help make recommendations to the users responsible for patch deployment.
Determine Endpoints that Require Patching
The next step is identifying the endpoints where the businesses can apply patches. An effective patch management application helps companies to monitor the software running on each endpoint. It enables businesses to use a filter to collect a list of the systems that should receive a particular patch.
Approve and Mitigate Patch Management
Users who manage software must review the patch to understand the results of the testing process and whether or not the list of endpoints must receive the patch. These insights obtained via the review process will help businesses decide whether or not to approve the patch deployment process.
More importantly, if businesses decide not to deploy a patch, the patch management system must be configured to prevent the patch from deploying. It prevents unwanted patches from being installed accidentally.
Perform a Pilot Deployment
The patch management process aims to standardize around a preferred software version. At the same time, few businesses offer patches to all the users at once. Rather, they must commonly perform a pilot deployment to sample patches before its organization-wide deployment.
This pilot deployment helps verify that the patch is safe for production use. It enables the organization to flag any issues that did not appear during lab testing. If they find a problem, only a few endpoints will be impacted since the patch deployment is not across the entire organization.
Note Systems’ State Before and After Patching
Businesses must document the state of the systems before and after a patch is applied. It allows companies to attribute the system to an applied patch if issues begin to occur later.
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As cybersecurity threats become prevalent, patch management is crucial to addressing firmware, middleware, or software vulnerabilities. A well-defined process will allow companies to have advanced features free of bugs and security vulnerabilities.
As per a recent report by Market Data Forest, “Global Patch Management Market Size 2023 to 2028“, the global patch management market is anticipated to grow to USD 1199 million by 2028 at a CAGR of 10.7%. Robust patch management ensures that the application resonates with the market trends.
Patch management reduces the risk by addressing vulnerabilities in the software and applications susceptible to attacks. It also ensures the software and applications are updated and efficiently support system uptime.