Patching and patch management is one of the most important and undervalued aspects of cybersecurity. In fact, 57% of cyberattack victims have stated that the application of a patch would have prevented the attack they were subject to. Worse still, the same study found that 34% of them knew about the vulnerability before the attack happened!

Here we will discuss six best practices for patching and patch management to help improve your organization’s security posture. Implementing these best practices will help you keep your software up to date and improve your organization’s security posture.

1. Take Inventory of Systems

Taking inventory of systems is one of the most important aspects of patching and patch management. By keeping track of all the systems in your network, you can ensure that every system is properly patched and up-to-date. This will help you avoid any potential security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

In order to take inventory of systems, you need to have a system in place that can track all of the assets in your network. This system should be able to identify each asset, its location, and its purpose. Once you have this information, you can then start to create a patching schedule for each system.

One of the best ways to take inventory of systems is by using a network discovery tool. These tools can help you quickly and easily identify all of the assets in your network. They can also provide you with detailed information about each asset, including its operating system, software, and hardware. Once you have this information, you can then start to create a patching schedule for each system.

2. Determine Risk and Vulnerability

By understanding the risks and vulnerabilities present in your system, you can more effectively determine which patches are needed and how to deploy them.

There are a number of factors to consider when assessing risk and vulnerability.

  • Identify what assets are most important to your organization and which ones are most at risk. This will help you prioritize which patches should be applied first.
  • Understand the potential impact of each vulnerability. How severe could the consequences be if this particular vulnerability was exploited? Would it allow an attacker to gain access to sensitive data or systems? Could it result in a Denial of Service attack?
  • Consider the likelihood of each vulnerability being exploited. Is this a known vulnerability with publicly available exploit code? Is it a 0-day vulnerability? How easy would it be for an attacker to exploit this particular flaw?
  • Weigh the cost of patching against the risk and impact of not patching. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to implement other security controls rather than deploy a patch.

3. Automate Patch Management

Automating patch management is undoubtedly one of the best practices in patching and patch management for security. By automating the process of identifying, downloading, and installing patches, administrators can ensure that all systems are up to date with the latest security fixes. This not only reduces the amount of time spent on patch management but also helps to improve security by ensuring that systems are less likely to be vulnerable to attack.

There are a number of different ways to automate patch management including using third-party tools,  scripts, or even integrating it into existing workflows such as Configuration Management or Systems Management. However, whichever approach is taken, there are a few key considerations that should be kept in mind in order to make sure that the process is as effective as possible.

4. Critical-Updates-First Approach

A critical-updates-first approach ensures that the most important patches are applied first before any other patches are considered. 

There are a few different types of patches that should be considered critical. These include security patches, stability patches, and performance patches.

  • Security patches are the most important type of patch, as they address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
  • Stability patches fix issues that could cause system crashes or instability.
  • Performance patches improve the overall performance of the system.

There are a few different ways to implement a critical-updates-first approach. One option is to manually select the most critical patches and apply them first. Another option is to use a patch management tool that supports this approach. Patch management tools can automate the process of selecting and applying patches, making it easier to implement a critical-updates-first approach.

5. Evaluate Patches in a Test Environment

By testing patches in an isolated environment, organizations can ensure that the patches will not cause any negative impact on production systems before they are deployed. Additionally, testing patches in a test environment allows organizations to assess the effectiveness of the patch and confirm that it addresses the specific vulnerabilities that it is intended to fix.

Organizations should have a robust testing process in place that includes both automated and manual testing methods. Automated testing can help to quickly identify potential issues with a patch, while manual testing can provide a more in-depth analysis of how the patch will impact system functionality. Patch testing should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that patches are being properly evaluated and that they will not cause any unexpected problems when deployed in production.

6. Establish A Disaster Recovery Process

Establishing a disaster recovery process can ensure that critical systems and data are recovered in the event of a major outage or disaster.

There are many factors to consider when establishing a disaster recovery process, but some of the most important include identifying critical systems and data, designing a backup and recovery plan, testing the plan regularly, and having a dedicated team in place to manage the process.

While no organization is immune to outages or disasters, those that have a well-defined disaster recovery process in place will be better prepared to minimize the impact of these events.

Protect Yourself with The Experts at vTECH io

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to patch management, following these best practices can help you develop a process that works for your organization.

The cyber security experts at vCyberGuard from vTECH io can help you build and implement a patch management plan tailored specifically to your organization’s needs. Contact us today to get started!