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Effective Patch Management Requires a Well-Defined Strategy

Effective patch management requires a proactive approach. If businesses and solution providers don’t have a clearly defined policy, chances are they’ll miss some patches. And ignoring patch notifications long enough will soon leave a whole list of updates that fall by the wayside, each one opening the door wider to cybercriminals.

Patch management addresses software and system vulnerabilities that cyber hackers exploit to break into networks, lock users out of their computers to demand ransom, and steal private data and intellectual property.

Any business that lacks a patch management strategy is leaving a door wide open to cybercriminals, who make it their life’s work to identify and exploit security holes. This is why every business needs to implement a consistent patch management strategy specifying how and when each patch is handled, who is responsible for applying patches, and how to verify the patches.

Effective patch management requires a proactive approach. If businesses and solution providers don’t have a clearly defined policy, chances are they’ll miss some patches. And ignoring patch notifications long enough will soon leave a whole list of updates that fall by the wayside, each one opening the door wider to cybercriminals.

Multiple Sources

Patch notifications to fix product flaws and vulnerabilities come from multiple sources, including Microsoft’s Windows Automatic Updates, the Microsoft Security Notification Service, remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools, and endpoint solutions with integrated patching capabilities.

Typically, patches are issued on a schedule. However, security vendors also send out patches off schedule for critical vulnerabilities. This is what happened in March when Microsoft issued a patch for the EternalBlue vulnerability. Unfortunately, too many organizations failed to apply the patch, making them vulnerable to the fast-spreading WannaCry ransomware outbreak a few months later.

If there was any doubt, WannaCry proved the importance of patching and that patching should be approached consistently--using the same process from one instance to the next, and, if possible, using the same patch notification tool. A consistent, well-defined process reduces the chance of error and potential for downtime.

Test and Verify

Testing is an important step whenever a patch is applied. A flawed patch can cause problems with the system that’s being updated, or even break something else, and that’s a headache everyone would rather avoid. 

To minimize the possibility of damage from a bad patch, each patch should be tested in a controlled environment before sending it out to every computer on the network. Then patch releases should be staggered by group or department as a further precaution. Once a patch is issued, it is necessary to ensure it was installed properly. To that end, the established patch management process should include a reporting and validation step to confirm the designated systems were successfully updated.

Having a patch management strategy that conforms to best practices is critical to addressing endpoint vulnerabilities and keeping systems safe. Adhere to a policy based on best practices and take advantage of security solutions with integrated patching capabilities. An effective option is the VIPRE approach, which integrates patch management into endpoint security and provides an efficient and affordable way to update and protect their systems.

For more on VIPRE’s approach to patch management, please watch this informative video to see just how VIPRE keeps you protected from all attack vectors.

Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.

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