Mac Patching Best Practices

Mar 25, 2022

As vulnerabilities and threats become more sophisticated, having a reliable and automated Mac patch management solution for your organization's devices is essential. This is important if you are using a lot of custom applications that may be hard to update. 

In this article, we will review information about Mac patch management, exploring the challenges it poses for IT and the solutions that can be used to streamline the process. 

Challenges with Mac Patch Management

With applications that are directly available from Apple Business Manager, organizations do not have to worry too much about Mac patch management. Nevertheless, when it comes to custom applications that are not listed on the Mac App Store and must be downloaded from other sources, it is not as easy. 

Patch management for Mac is not just a hassle, but also a concern for IT professionals due to security issues. If your custom applications are not updated, essential security updates for the applications may be missing from the devices of your organization. Therefore, your device may become vulnerable to threats and exploits.

For instance, check one of the common vulnerabilities and exposure (CVE) entries listed on Zoom. The previous versions of the Zoom application have documented security vulnerabilities that can be exploited to hijack calls and take over the operation of MacOS. Zoom has since released an update for this issue, but without quick and dependable patch management techniques, lots of Mac devices might have been vulnerable for a long period of time. 

Some mobile device management (MDM) solutions have built-in patch management capabilities to discover and deploy patches. This can remove some part of the Mac patch management issue, but it also requires practical work for its setup and maintenance. If you are not using mobile device management for patch management, you may fall into any of these categories: 

1. Depending on Monolithic Imagining

Maybe you are still using shudder monolithic imaging. If this is the case, you may want to check on its vitals. For inexperienced personnel, this practice involves building a Mac with all the relevant software and applying the disk image of that Mac’s boot drive to other Mac devices. However, this is not a good alternative to the Mac patch management solution, especially in the modern IT environment.

2. Depending on Manual Mac Patch Management

Since you are not using MDM and custom applications do not update automatically, Mac patch management needs to be done manually. If this is the way you keep your apps updated, then you know how time-consuming it can be.

3. Depending on Mac App Store Applications

As far as using applications from the Mac App Store, there is little Mac patch management to worry about. This is because Apple does a great job of keeping its apps updated. However, when the time comes to use custom applications and manage versions on lots of company devices, things may become disorganized. 

Using Mobile Device Management for Mac Patch Management 

If manual patch management is a hassle, what makes using MDM solutions easier? Some MDM solutions for Mac patch management have their own built-in patch management capabilities to do things such as:

  • Determine when new releases are available.
  • Create a package for the new update and deploy it.
  • Take inventory of the app versions on your company devices.

While this is better than doing manual Mac patch management on all company devices, it still requires a lot of effort on the part of IT professionals and IT administrators to build out processes and deploy them.  

Additionally, you can still figure out if the custom app needs:

  • Kernel Extension (KEXT) white listing to ensure that end users don’t receive prompts to approve kernel extension access.
  • Privacy Preferences Policy Control (PPPC) to let apps access protected user and system resources without prompting the users for approval.
  • Notification white listing to enable silent installs without the user being notified.

Most mobile device management solutions can’t do this. Therefore, while they take us a little closer to more efficient patch management for Mac systems, it is still not as stress-free as it could be.  

How to Manually Patch Your Mac Systems

You can deploy patches manually to your Mac devices by navigating to the Apple App Store and checking for new updates. If your computer is up-to-date with the latest version of MacOS, the store will show a message letting you know that your computer is updated. If any update is missing, you will get a pop-up notification asking if you would like your device to be updated. 

As an IT professional who focuses on eliminating vulnerabilities and threats, you can choose the option that best suits you. Note that when you intend to download third-party updates for Mac, you have the following ways to do it:

  • Download the third-party updates manually whenever they are released.
  • Enable automatic updates for each application, so that when updates are available they'll automatically be downloaded. However, this may consume a lot of bandwidth, which could deteriorate your network's efficiency.

Mac patch management is essential in safeguarding your company device against threats. Do you need a Mac patch management tool? Vicarius is a vulnerability remediation company that targets cybersecurity officers as well IT managers and operators from the U.S. market.

 

Photo by Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash

Written by

Kent Weigle

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