Time and again, we keep hearing that hackers tend to attack the vulnerabilities, especially when you haven’t patched the updates or when your software is nearing its End of Life (EOL). It’s not always your fault.
The more you fail to keep up with security updates from your software vendors, the more you are prone to vulnerability. A timely patch helps you correct the security and functionality problems in software. Patch management has several challenges that complicate it, which are covered extensively by National Institute of Standards and Technology in its updated Guide to Enterprise Patch Management.
In short, the challenges arise out of mechanisms used for applying patches, schemes used for managing hosts and so on. Here are some useful best practices for patch management:
- 1. Phased approach: Deploy a pre-tested patch before the updates are applied across your network. Also you might need to manually handle the non-standard and legacy systems that are not supported by tools you use to deploy patch.
- 2. Standard security techniques to deploy patch: When you are deploying the patches, there may be potential issues like patches being altered, credentials being misused, etc. It’s difficult to manage everything manually, so the best way to go is automating the patch management process. You need to ensure that you choose the right patch management software.
- 3. Balance security with feasibility requirements. As you know, patches can at times break other applications, so it’s important to prioritize patch deployment. You need to strike a balance between security and usability/availability requirements. For example, downloading large patches for remote and mobile devices over low network bandwidth is not feasible and you need to ensure that your patch management tool works well in such an environments.
But is it all about only staying updated? The answer is a big NO. Your organization might have software from hundreds of vendors, so bulk deployment can be an up-hill task. Gartner estimates that IT managers spend up to two hours every day managing patches. For instance, last week Microsoft® rolled out its security patch with updates for Internet Explorer™, Office® and Windows®. This latest installment addressed 33 bugs in a range of Redmond software. So there are chances that you may miss out on a critical vulnerability notification.
Alright, so you need an effective patch management software to survive the insecure IT environment but that’s not the end of the story. Automating the process with a patch manager shouldn’t be a reactive process. You need to schedule scans on a regular basis to analyze your IT environment and deploy all critical patches. To sum up, being up to date on current patches is certainly a step towards endpoint stability and security.
Stay patched, stay secure!