Read our best practice guidelines for creating a new patch management policy that protects your network against common application vulnerabilities.

Creating a new patch management policy

Patch management enables code changes to be tested and installed on a device’s existing Windows-operating applications. It updates systems on the latest patches (codes) available and ascertains which ones to use, often to fix bugs and security gaps. This is a vital aspect of cybersecurity, especially within businesses of any size.

Why do I need a patch management policy?

It is crucial that patch management is an aspect of your cybersecurity measures. The service works in a preventative manner to detect vulnerabilities before it’s too late – if patches are not deployed soon enough, a network could be severely compromised. With constant monitoring, any threats that could jeopardize your company’s data and other sensitive information within your network will be discovered as soon as possible.

As patches can apply to almost every aspect of an endpoint (laptop, desktop, mobile or other internet-enabled device), it is essential that patch management is used for all business endpoints, to protect your workplace data. However, despite many businesses knowing the importance of the process, they don’t partake in patch management due to the scale of the project. With too many patches and patching often disrupting operations, the task can get left behind.

You should ensure that all relevant members of the business – such as IT technicians or security teams – are aware of your patch management process.

Manual patch management vs automated patch management software

There are two different processes for patch management. You can conduct manual patch management, which will entail creating a patch management policy. You can also use automated patch management software as a timesaving, accurate alternative. Even when downloading software, you may often find it is still worth having your own backup policy.

Creating a new patch management policy

There are several steps involved when creating a new policy, covering the patch management process template and patch management policy and procedures. Creating a patch and vulnerability management program can be straight forward, when you follow these steps:

Step 1: Create a categorized inventory of all IT assets

In order to begin your patch management policy, you should have a good understanding of all of your assets. Create a list of your endpoints, including servers, storage devices, routers, desktops, laptops and tablets. Once you have a good understanding of every asset you need to cover, categorize them by type and risk level. An example of an endpoint at high-risk is anything that you use to open emails. Low-risk endpoints include devices not connected to the internet.

Step 2: Rigorously test patch deployment in a test environment

The next stage is to create a test environment to deploy patches in. It is crucial to conduct patch testing before you deploy patches into the production environment, checking they are fully functional and will not cause any damage to your systems and applications.

Step 3: Back up existing data within the production environment

Ensure that all data in the live production environment is backed up in the event that it needs to later be restored.

Step 4: Roll out the deployment of patches to the production environment

Once you have made sure that all your devices and endpoints are backed up, you can then deploy the patches into the production environment.

Step 5: Maintain and evaluate patches regularly

It is important to continue maintenance of patches – regularly evaluate and monitor their performance after they have been deployed. This is vital for the security of any business, and it must be ongoing.

Best practice guidelines

There are several ways to maintain your patch management policy. Here are some patch management policy best practices we advise you follow:

Regularly update your inventory and software

All inventory data and software should be updated regularly – critical updates can help flag or fix and security flaws.

Keep a list of the most common vulnerabilities

If you keep a list of the most common vulnerabilities and your IT assets that are most at risk, you can refer back to this throughout the process. This will guide you of the most and least likely threats, and which endpoints are most susceptible to those threats, helping you prioritize your actions.

Make a note of how security tools are configured

You should also take note of the configuration of your devices and security tools, and how they work. This list can again be referred back to throughout the patch management process, especially if there are any issues regarding patch deployment post the test environment.

The benefits of automated patch management software

By downloading patch management software, you can save time by removing manual processes from your operations. An automated solution will regularly scan for missing patches and review those already in place, assessing if they’re appropriate to use. The service will remove the time and stress associated with conducting these tasks yourself, freeing up developer time that can be used for higher-priority tasks.

Avast Patch Management can improve efficiency and productivity within the workplace with its automated approach to scanning. The solution also removes human error from the process, bringing accuracy and breadth to patch scanning and removing guesswork. The software enables you to deploy any required patches across a range of endpoints from one central dashboard, while selecting the frequency of the scan to a schedule that suits your needs

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Author: Avast Business Team, 4 May 2020