Six Ways to Improve Your Patch Management Practices

Jan 05, 2021

Ask any IT or Infosec professional if they think patch management is important, and you’ll get an annoyed “of course.” But while the majority of organizations understand the importance of patching, implementation of patch management can be lackluster. With so many operating systems, expanding infrastructure, hybrid cloud environments, hundreds of applications, and thousands of assets, it can be difficult to maintain an effective strategy for what should be routine security hygiene. Every organization wants to minimize their risk profile, and an effective, efficient, and—above all—routine set of best practices is the first step.

1) Keep an exhaustive list of assets, applications, and operating systems

You can only patch what you can see. Knowing exactly which applications are running on what asset is the beginning to successfully reducing your risk profile. You should also make sure that all applications are up to date.

2) Prioritize high-risk assets and applications

To efficiently and effectively patch, you need to know which assets hold high-impact data and which applications are most essential to business continuity. It is important to prioritize assets and applications that could interrupt business as usual if exploited before rolling out an unimportant, low-impact patch for an application that is rarely used.

3) Stay informed

Third-party software vendors will regularly evaluate their applications and release patches on a routine basis. Staying apprised of security updates keeps a patch from falling through the cracks and a vulnerability remaining open for exploitation longer than necessary.

4) Deploy patches as soon as possible

The mean time to patch (MTTP) can vary from 38 to 150 days for a regular patch and 12 days for a critical patch. Once known, vulnerabilities can be weaponized in as little as a week. With over 18,000 disclosed vulnerabilities in 2020 alone, keeping up with patching vulnerabilities is key to not become overwhelmed and push off deployments. Creating a patch schedule and automating patch deployments will increase deployment speed.

5) Deploy patches in a test environment before deploying system wide

When deploying a patch, it’s best to start small and increase the deployment field as asset groups check out. Deploying a system wide patch without testing has the potential to interrupt business as usual for an extending period of time.

6) Use a comprehensive vulnerability management and patch management platform

Using an all-in-one vulnerability management system enables IT and Infosec teams to decrease their workload dramatically, freeing them up to focus on tasks other than treading water. TOPIA allows you to minimize the tedium of asset inventory, vulnerability assessment and prioritization, and patch deployment. TOPIA learns your infrastructure and prioritizes vulnerabilities for patching based on their context within your organization. A single asset, a group, and even the entire organization can be patched from a single dashboard. Patching can be scheduled and automated or manually deployed. If a patch isn’t available, TOPIA allows you to protect the vulnerable application by encasing it in a metaphorical force-field.

Conclusion

Successful patch management is key to minimizing your organization’s risk exposure. The key to successful patch management is creating a vulnerability assessment and patch strategy that meets your organization’s needs and consistently applying that strategy. It’s like working out: create a routine and stick to it. Using an all-in-one vulnerability management system like TOPIA only makes it easier.

 

Photo by Katie Bush on Unsplash

Written by

Kent Weigle

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