How Often Should You Patch?

Jun 25, 2021

How often should we apply patches and who is responsible for patch management? This article will shed more light on software patching.

Your organization may be informed of a patch by the system vendor and recommended to install immediately. However, if your system is needed throughout a year and has an SLA on its uptime, this may not be possible.

Your response is based on your organization's risk tolerance, your company’s compliance responsibilities as well as the vendor recommendations, notification of outage to your customers, availability of staff with the right skills to perform patch management, and your system’s resilience. 

  • Concerning the organization’s risk tolerance: This is based on the severity of the vulnerability, the negative impact of not applying the patch based on reputation damage, and the costs involved in implementation (testing, downtime or overtime). 
  • In terms of vendor recommendations, there is always a negative impact if the patch conflicts with other components of the system during testing which leads to further delays. You must weigh the risk of either breaking something by deploying the patch against the potential damage of not applying the patch while you consult with different sets of vendors regarding break or fix.
  • In terms of your organization’s compliance. This is based on each compliance regulation or standard you’re subject to and having a tool that can help in reminding the technical staff that are available. For regulation or compliance standards, patches needed to be applied within some days.
  • In terms of the responsibility for patching, it should not be the responsibility of a single person to communicate the availability of patches. With formally documented patching policies, patches should be flagged up to a team of technical staff and the appropriate resourcing considered when needed. 
  • Staff with the right skills to perform the patch deployment may be scarce; recruiting staff with the right skills may be hard. However, regularly asking staff to refresh their skills and giving them the support they need based on knowledge and training sharing within teams is good practice as well as engaging them in the writing of specific Security Operating Procedures for each system.
  • In terms of system resilience, fully resilient systems that can kick in if a system fails—or in the case of load-balanced systems, can fully absorb the whole load—are expensive and not all organizations can afford them. If your organization doesn’t have resilient systems, the patching decision again comes back to your risk tolerance. 

If your organization’s systems are strong, then testing the patch on one system first and letting it run, or better yet running in a separate development environment for a reasonable period, would be good practice.

As IT security experts, there is a need for an in-depth level of defense. Given the relative nature of scanning tools, they aren’t equipped for automated alerting of critical vulnerabilities to more than a person.

Why are General Software Updates and Patches Important?

You are definitely not a stranger to those little pop-up windows. They tell you software updates are available for your laptop, tablet, computer or mobile device. You may be tempted to respond by clicking the ‘’Remind Me Later button’’. Don’t do it and don’t turn off updating your software for a long period.

Software updates and software patching are essential to your cybersecurity and digital safety. The quicker the update, the sooner you will be confident your device is safe and secure.

Why are software updates important? 

  1. Software Updates Do Lots of Things

Security updates and patch management have many benefits. It’s all about revisions. These may include repairing security holes that are discovered and removing computer bugs. Updates can add additional features to your devices and remove old ones. While you’re at it, it’s ideal to ensure your operating system is running on the latest version.

  1. Updates Patch Security Flaws

Hackers love security flaws which are also known as software vulnerabilities. A software vulnerability is a security weakness found in an operating system. Hackers can take advantage of the weakness by writing code to target the vulnerability. The code is packed into malware. 

Sometimes an exploit can infect your computer with no action on your part other than viewing a rogue website, playing infected media or opening a compromised message.

What will happen next? The malware can steal data that are saved on your device or allow cyber attackers to gain control over your computer and confidential data. Most times, software updates include software patches. They cover the security holes to keep hackers away and ensure effective security patches.

  1. Software Updates Help Protect Your Data

You may have lots of documents and confidential information on your devices. Your identifiable information from emails and bank account information is valuable to cybercriminals.

Your confidential information can be used to commit crimes in your name or sell it on the dark web. If it’s a ransomware attack, they may encrypt your data. Updating your software and operating systems helps keep hackers out. 

  1. It’s Not All About You

Although cybersecurity is mostly about you, there are other people that you need to think about. If your device gets a virus, you may pass it on to your family, friends and business associates. This is the reason why you need to keep your software and operating systems updated. 

A reliable and effective security program like Norton 360 can assist in keeping your devices secure. And that can help everyone that interacts with you online. However, it’s essential to know anti-virus protection is not enough to protect your devices against all cyber threats.

There is also a need for security experts to always patch the software of their organization on a regular basis. If you need a cybersecurity tool that can create a strong troubleshooting background, with a focus on ransomware countermeasures, choose Vicarius. 

Vicarius is a vulnerability management software that targets cybersecurity officers as well as IT managers and operators from the U.S. market. 

 

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Written by

Kent Weigle

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