Since SolarWinds acquired EminentWare at the beginning of this year, I've been learning a lot about Microsoft Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the Windows Update Agent, and software patching in general. Most of us know that Microsoft works hard to help us keep our systems up to date to ensure optimal security and performance, but what I didn't know 6 months ago was that it's just as important to keep track of updates from other vendors.
Just like Microsoft, vendors such as Adobe, Apple, Google, and Oracle (makers of Java) publish regular security bulletins to inform sysadmins of their latest patches and the risks their un-patched vulnerabilities expose. In a recent blog post, jkuvlesk listed the URLs for several of these vendors' security bulletins, along with some useful tips about keeping their applications up to date. To take an example from one of these bulletins, here's what Adobe has to say about their latest Flash Player update:
These updates address vulnerabilities that could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.
To me, statements like this make patching 3rd party applications a pretty big priority -- especially since I know how easy it is to ignore (or even disable) those balloons from Adobe informing users that their software is out of date. So, what can you do to help keep these applications patched?
Many administrators use WSUS and the Windows Update Agent to identify, approve, and deploy patches to Microsoft products on Windows systems without any end-user intervention. The good news is, you can do the same for 3rd party applications. By preparing 3rd party update packages manually and modifying the Group Policy settings on the workstations in your environment, you can instruct workstations to report back to WSUS to request your latest custom packages. But that still leaves you holding the bag when it comes to figuring out what to patch and when -- not to mention how to create the packages. Enter Patch Manager.
Patch Manager, the one-stop solution for all your patch management worries, does a lot of the leg work for you when it comes to patching 3rd party applications. It even helps you create your own custom packages when necessary. By using a 3rd party patch management solution like Patch Manager, you can keep all of your applications up to date and avoid the headaches that can come along with those un-patched vulnerabilities. Sounds like a perfect patch management software! Yes, it sure is.
For more patch management tips, WSUS patch management and additional information about the 3rd party applications SolarWinds supports, check out PatchZone, the thwack! space dedicated to keeping your systems patched up and running smoothly.