Patch management is one of the most common, standard responsibilities of MSPs, consultants, and internal IT departments. While it may appear to be a simple task, it is a critical part of maintaining good cybersecurity in any organization.
Patch management covers a huge range of different types of patches. Let’s see how Microsoft breaks these down into categories:
Hotfixes: These are quick updates meant to respond to immediate issues flagged by customers, security holes, or security advisories. These hotfixes come with ratings—one through four—to indicate how critical they are to install.
Rollups: As the name suggests, these patches roll several hot fixes together.
Service Packs: Arriving in a more comprehensive, regular, and planned fashion, service packs bring together all the hotfixes since the last big service pack.
The best approach to patch management is proactive, not reactive. A patch management solution can help maintain regular, ongoing, and scheduled patching. These tools allow technicians to understand the full landscape of a customer’s devices, software, and relevant updates. The best patch management solutions include automation features, too. Technicians can spend hours on patching, and manually deploying updates even as other client demands pile up which is a frustrating situation. Automating certain tasks, decisions, and activities will not only save technicians time but also ensure that nothing is missed in the process of updating devices and software.
Let us walk through the key reasons why patch management is important for cybersecurity, and why every company should have a patch management solution.
SMBs are under attack
Small and mid-size businesses are just as vulnerable to threats as big-name organizations. Many small businesses manage valuable or sensitive information, such as medical documents, that hackers want to target for financial gain. This is a significant worry for SMBs. Outdated or improperly configured software can offer hackers a way into organizations, allowing them to hold the company hostage with ransomware, install viruses, or compromise the business in other ways. A strong patch management tool helps ensure that every device and every software seat is up to date, supporting customers of all sizes not just SMBs in forming a layer of defense.
Remote work is here to stay
With the shift to increased remote work, many organizations have found themselves concerned about new security concerns for the first time. This means more remote employees, remote devices, and less secure environments for those devices. This all adds up to increased risk. In short, many companies are concerned about upgrading their cybersecurity during the pandemic and beyond. Since patching is crucial to keeping software up-to-date, a good patch management solution is a key part of responding to increased client demand around protecting remote workers and devices.
Cyberattacks on the rise
It seems like every day cyberattacks are making headlines, and they are on the rise. For example, look at the Catastrophic Breach just reported by Ubiquiti which disclosed a breach involving a third-party cloud provider that had exposed customer account credentials. As cyber criminals look for more ways to attack companies, timely patching is becoming more important. With features such as automation, a good patch management solution will help stay on top of updates for Microsoft, Adobe, AWS, and many other software providers closing a potential avenue for cyberattacks. What about third-party software?
While Windows and other major players routinely issue patches, you often also must patch third-party software—such as Apple iTunes, Google Chrome, and Oracle Java— which may issue patches less frequently. And less frequent patches mean more potential vulnerabilities. Third-party patch management is an important way to protect against threats. A good remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool will offer the ability to fully oversee the status of all patches, including third-party software. With a dashboard, technicians can keep a watchful eye to ensure all software stays up to date.
Patch management best practices
Patch management provides a fundamental benefit to your cybersecurity posture. You can adopt several patch management best practices to support their users, such as:
Creating a patching policy that defines how and when patching occurs, why it occurs, and who in your business deploys patches
Establishing and following a patch management process
Regularly scanning for vulnerabilities
Using tools to monitor clients’ systems and automate patches
Businesses of all sizes are increasingly aware of cybersecurity as an issue. By ensuring that software vulnerabilities are addressed in a proactive and efficient manner, it can cut off potential access points for cybersecurity threats—and keep their users safe.