Change Your Perspective and Treat Patches as a Priority
Sometimes exercise feels like a punishment. If you reframe your opinion and think of exercise as doing something good for your health, it becomes much easier to develop and stick with an exercise habit.
Patching systems is the same way. Without context, patching is a boring, tedious routine maintenance task that takes your team’s focus away from important IT projects. That perspective makes it easy to defer patches in favor of tasks that seem more important. But change your perspective, and patches are a critical information security process, and getting patches done on time is a vital cybersecurity task.
Is that perspective more accurate? Well, some studies find that as many as one third of breaches result from vulnerabilities that weren’t corrected, so there’s certainly a significant security risk if you don’t stay up to date with patches.
Of course, even with the best of intentions, it’s hard to keep systems patched appropriately. There’s a steady release of patches, and they need to be tested before deploying them; you want to avoid deploying a patch that breaks something. Even once a patch is verified, manually deploying them is time consuming. It can be difficult to be sure you’ve installed them everywhere and haven’t missed a server. The entire process of receiving patches, testing them, and deploying them is usually fragile and error prone.
Although it’s possible to receive and deploy patches automatically, such as through Windows Update, this is not recommended due to the potential for patches to introduce issues. Instead, making the process more robust often requires significant changes throughout your infrastructure management. You need to improve:
- hardware inventory management, so you know all the devices you have
- software inventory management, so you know all the software you have and where it’s installed. An inventory scanner can help with this task.
- patch tracking, so you know when patches are released
- patch prioritization, so you can assess whether a patch is urgent
- patch testing, so you can verify there are no negative impacts from deploying a patch
- patch deployment, so you can ensure tested patches are scheduled and successfully deployed in the appropriate sequence to all affected hardware; typically, automation is required to make the deployments reliable. Patch management tools can help with these patch-specific tasks.
- system verification, so you can that patches don’t negatively affect the system. (Patch testing should make problems unlikely, but checkouts are still required).
In addition to taking steps to implement patches more efficiently, you also need to address the period between the patch being issued and the patch being installed. Even an updated, automated patching process leaves a gap between when the vulnerability is identified and the patch is tested and deployed. You should consider taking additional steps to address increased risk levels, such as modifying firewall rules or other software settings; these can then be reverted once the corrective patch is in operation.
Are you ready to change your perspective on patching systems and treat patch management like a priority? Contact Prescient Solutions to learn more about how our infrastructure support and managed technology services ensure your systems are kept up to date with all critical patches.