Effective Patch Management Systems & Practices
Besides human error, unpatched systems are the leading cause of data breaches. While human error can be challenging to predict or reduce, an effective patch management system can be easily incorporated into your IT management workflow. Here’s how to develop a few best practices.
How to Develop a Holistic Patch Management System
By following best practices with a proper patch manager software, you can enhance the security of your IT systems, improve performance, eliminate downtime, and stay compliant.
Hire a Third-Party or Purchase Software
Third-party patching is an essential part of patch management. You won’t be able to patch your systems yourself unless you have a well-stocked IT department. But you can hire out this task to a managed provider or an IT consulting firm if you need help picking out the latest technology.
Automatic patching software can cut down on the patching process and mitigate vulnerabilities, but it can’t find everything. You also need a manual patching system to find everything.
Create a Systems Inventory and Risk Categories
You shouldn’t apply any patches to your system before you’ve developed a comprehensive inventory. All hardware and software connected to your network should be grouped in such a way (i.e., by operating system or device) that you’re able to patch all necessary applications.
After creating this inventory, you should also categorize potential risks to each item. This helps you prioritize what systems to patch first, which can reduce downtime and other issues,
Develop a Patching Schedule and Test Patches
If you decide not to outsource your IT management, you’ll need to develop a patching schedule right away. While you could schedule your patches at any time, it’s better to choose a time when there’s low user activity or at a time when there’s no user activity, like evenings or weekends.
With that said, you must conduct test patches on your systems first, even if there isn’t anyone on the system. This helps you identify a potential problem before patching the whole system.
Pay Attention to Software and System Updates
At least 64% of companies worldwide have experienced a cyber attack, and a good deal of these attacks come from ransomware and DDoS attacks. These often occur because the system has a poor firewall or antivirus system, which can often be resolved through updates.
Updating your computer or software takes 2-10 minutes, but it can save you millions of dollars and thousands of customers. If you aren’t going to use specific software, just delete it entirely.
Apply Patches Quickly, but Have a Restore Plan
When a third-party vendor releases a patch update, apply them quickly. It’s likely they’ve identified a vulnerability in their software that they want to fix. But sometimes, a new patch can be applied too quickly or incorrectly and damage your system or make the software unusable.
If this happens, it’s crucial to have a backup plan. While patching problems are uncommon, you should still prepare in case they occur by putting a restore plan and backups in place.
Track the Progress of Your Patch Management System
If your patch management system is working, it’s time to celebrate! Still, that won’t mean it’ll work all the time or work in all situations. That’s why you need to track your progress to see if it’s updating successfully. If necessary, you can make changes the next time you apply a patch.
Through system updates and compliance changes, you’ll have to update your policy at some point. You should keep tabs on cybersecurity laws to ensure you aren’t breaking any rules.