Patch management is a part of lifecycle management and is the process of applying patches to systems at the precise time adhering to the specific strategy and plan. Patch management is the process that helps acquire, test and install multiple patches (code changes) on existing applications and software tools on a computer, enabling systems to stay updated on existing patches and determining which patches are the appropriate ones. Managing patches thus becomes easy and simple.
A patch is a set of changes to a computer program or its supporting data designed to update, fix, or improve it. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, with such patches usually being called bug fixes, and improving the functionality, usability or performance. Patches may be applied to program files on a storage device, or in computer memory. Patches may be permanent (until patched again) or temporary.
Why Patch management?
Patching is a process to repair vulnerability or a flaw that is identified after the release of an application or software. Newly released patches can fix a bug or a security flaw that can help to enhance applications with new features, fix a security vulnerability.
Un-patched software can make the device a vulnerable target of exploits. Patching software as and when the patch is released is critical to deny any malware access to systems. The objective of patch management is to keep various systems in a network up-to-date and secure against various kinds of hacking and malware. Patch management helps in maintaining current knowledge of available patches, deciding what patches are appropriate for particular systems, ensuring that patches are installed properly, testing systems after installation, and documenting all associated procedures, such as specific configurations required. Several products are available to automate patch management tasks, including RingMaster Software’s APM, Manage Engine’s Desktop Central, and SolarWinds Patch Manager.
How does patch management work?
Patch Management can be performed manually or with automated tools, depending on the Nature of Patch being deployed. There are many advantages to having an automated process for Patch management.
- On time patch deployment to provide a secure environment
- An efficient system which deploys patches network wide to help improve the productivity of the company
- For organizations, this often translates into opportunities to improve or extend their services.
Deployment of Patch management differs from being applied to stand alone systems or corporate environment due to software version consistency maintained across the organization. In corporate organizations, following centralized patch management is deduced to be a beneficial process. Few advantages are as follows:
- Organizational control over the Patch Management Process which allows any vulnerability in the process to be configured by the organization or even provide the control of preventing the Patch deployment.
- Conserve Internet Bandwidth
- Saves Time and Operational Cost
Patch Management Life Cycle:
- Analyze Vulnerability: Monitoring and Analyzing the Vulnerabilities/Threat to the system and environment.
- Patch Identification: Identify a Patch to identify and address the Vulnerability and Threat analyzed above.
- Patch Planning: Develop a plan to implement the Patch. This step includes a thorough understanding of the impact of patching integrated systems and environments.
- Analyzing the Patch: Deciding the implementation of Patch and its time and date. This also includes the impact on the customers
- Testing: Applying a Patch to Test environments and running regression, User acceptance, Performance, and security test scenarios on it.
- Deployment: Deploying the Patch to the production environment as planned also verifying if any rollbacks are required.
- Configuration Record: Updating a record in Config file of the Patch deployed for future reference.
Measuring the Success of your Patch Management
With 20 years of known vulnerabilities out in open adhering to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure system, the number of registered patches is increasing rapidly. With Few Key points, the success of Patch management can be measured
- Historical data on your mean time to patch
- Historical data on unpatched vulnerabilities
- Historical data on unpatched vulnerabilities that are covered by one or more monitoring use cases
On concluding the above data, the following conditions can be deduced:
- Average mean time to patch should not be bigger than the number of days between each maintenance period
- One or more monitoring use cases must cover each unpatched vulnerability
- The number of unpatched vulnerabilities should not be bigger than the number of unpatched vulnerabilities that are covered by a monitoring use case
Partly because of the success of ransomware attacks, the focus on where vulnerabilities are discovered is also shifting. In the past, vulnerabilities were mainly discovered in applications. Nowadays, the focus is also on vulnerabilities in operating systems. Hence understanding the correct process for your environment for the application of Patch management is crucial.
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