With society’s ever-increasing reliance on technology, patch management has become an essential element of maintaining a functioning cybersecurity posture.
But continuously distributing and applying these new software updates isn’t always a simple task. Even for a small company, it can be incredibly labor- and time-intensive. That difficulty is often compounded the larger your operation grows.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to streamline your patch management process. For more information on how you can make securing your company simple, read on.
What Is Patch Management?
Most digital software and firmware will be released in a less-than-perfect state.
Over time, bugs and errors inevitably crop up within the application or software’s source code, creating functionality issues or exposing security vulnerability. Either result can hamstring a company’s ability to operate as usual. Seeing as the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24 million, leaving the issue to fester unnoticed and unresolved is a recipe for disaster.1
Patch installation is one of the steps a company must take to move from a reactive cyber security posture to a proactive stance.
But what is patch management exactly?
The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) defines it as “The process of identifying, prioritizing, acquiring, installing, and verifying the installation of patches, updates, and upgrades throughout an organization.”2
Put simply, it’s the practice of detecting and then responding to a vulnerability identified after a software’s release. However, it’s important to note that patch management and vulnerability management are different.
Patch management can be instigated by:
- An individual
- Automated software
- A combination of both
Either way, the person or machine leading the effort must determine which issues require patching, what steps can be taken, and when changes must occur. In some cases, patch deployment may be conducted via a central administrative computer, which then spreads the fix to the other devices. In other instances, security patches may need to be installed on each device individually.
Challenges of Patch Management
Patch management can represent a significant cybersecurity headache for organizations big and small. While various factors add to the difficulty of the task, five, in particular, stand out:
- There’s a lack of visibility of patch status across the entire cyber ecosystem.
- It’s an incredibly complex process, made all the more so by a heterogeneous mixed OS environment.
- Organizations often suffer from a scarcity of time, tools, and resources to respond swiftly to an imminent threat.
- A single security vulnerability in one server or device could have the potential to expose the entire network.
- Maintaining compliance in a constantly evolving regulatory landscape is a task without end.
How Can You Streamline the Patch Management Process?
Knowing these common problems, what must you do to optimize the patching process?
Follow this patch management checklist to streamline your process:
- Identify all critical assets – Seeing as your resources are finite, the first action in any risk management process involves identifying and prioritizing information systems and components.3 Performing this due diligence helps you determine the layout of the network and the hierarchy of the systems therein. It also makes it possible to discover unidentified or forgotten endpoints.
- Initially focus on high-risk devices – During the identification process, you should assign a threat level status to each aspect of the network. Then, rank them according to urgency. Naturally, the most neglected and out-of-date devices are the highest patching priority, since they probably have the most vulnerabilities. From there, you can move on to the systems that are most integral to your day-to-day operations.
- Automate wherever possible – The optimal patch management solution will deploy both humans and automation wherever they’re most useful. A remote monitoring and management (RMM) system makes it much easier to:
- Identify what needs patching
- Stipulate how to patch the issue
- Ensure that the update has been applied across the entire system
- Set a patch management policy – Patch management is an ongoing process. Therefore, preparation is critical. By creating and continuously updating your policy, you can instill if-then processes that streamline responses. That way, if “this” occurs, then your team instantly knows to take “that” action. Defining a plan creates accountability and ensures that you stay on top of patch management.
- Document the patch management process – Documentation is essential from both a utilitarian and compliance standpoint. Over time, this sets an informational baseline that you can then leverage to identify potential issues before they can take effect.
Syncro: MSP Patch Management — The Simpler Way
Patch management is one of the more common causes of a data breach—and that’s often true for both small startups with limited resources as well as major organizations with dedicated IT teams. That’s because, even with the proper resources, the task is often too complex and time-consuming to be given the attention it deserves in-house.
Fortunately, you can outsource your managed services provider patch management software and services to the experts at SyncroMSP. As a combined RMM and PSA platform, we provide a host of tools and managed services that help you make more money, whether it’s patch management, ticketing, or scripting.
Want to see how the operating system works for yourself? Schedule your free demo today.