Patch Management Best Practices

Right up there with human error, unpatched systems are one of the top causes of data breaches. According to the Ponemon Institute, over 57% of data breaches are due to poor patch management. When you add that to the ever-increasing growth in cyberattacks, you can easily see why having a strong patch management policy and process can help strengthen an organization’s security stance.   

In this article we will lay out some patch management best practices that will help manage and mitigate vulnerabilities in an organization’s environment.

Patch Management Best Practices 

1. Third-party patching 

Third-party patching is an essential element of patch management. The obvious one that everyone thinks about is patching the operating system but that is just one area to think about. All third-party applications and software need to be part of the patching process to mitigate vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.  

2. Security first 

A security first approach is the cornerstone of a strong patch management policy. Your process must allow for vulnerability scans based on the criticalness of vulnerability and deploy the patches accordingly. Building a patch management process with approval workflows for critical vulnerabilities will significantly reduce the attack surface. 

3. Prioritize patching 

Software, whether applications, operating systems or tools will always have bugs that need to be fixing. It is important that the patch management process and policies in place allow you to prioritize the patching based on the vulnerabilities that impact your business.  

4. Reduce your attack surface 

The main objective of patch management is about securing the endpoints and reducing risk. However, patch management is but one of the strategies needed to shield the endpoints and mitigate the risk. There are two other important strategies that an organization must also address.  The first is about hardening your endpoints by ensuring they are properly and securely configured. The second is ensuring you have a properly configured and deployed next-generation antivirus and anti-malware solutions.  

This three-pronged strategy allows organizations to reduce their attack surfaces effectively. 

5. Categorizing patches 

Not all patches are created equal which brings us to another important best practice which is the categorization of patches. Organizations should set up a process which allows them to properly identify and categorize patches as follows: 

  • Critical vulnerabilities patches – these need to be addressed and deployed immediately 
  • Approval based patches – these need to be approved by the appropriate stakeholders to ensure that there are no disruptions to an organization’s operations 
  • Low risk patches – these are patches that are deployed on an as needed basis. They are low risk and low priority but may be useful in specific cases 

Following the above patch management best practices provides organizations the ability to mitigate risk and reduce the attack surface. However, manual processes can be time consuming and not scalable. Working with a Technology Service Provider, like MicroAge, allows organizations to leverage the tools, processes, knowledge, and experience providing a strong patch management policy which mitigates vulnerabilities and helps reduce the risks of a breach.  

Contact us today to see how we can help. 

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