Patch management exists for a fairly simple reason: when software of a new operating system is released, there are hackers out there looking for holes and vulnerabilities that will let them in.
And as threats become more sophisticated, the volume and speed of patches being released by IT teams is increasing. Companies typically use a number of operating systems and applications running on several devices across various locations, both physical and in the cloud.
Consequently, organising, tracking and prioritising patches as they’re released becomes incredibly challenging and complex.
In an ideal world, a fix for every vulnerability in the code is applied. Yet for many companies, this isn’t always the case.
“With stretched resourcing and limited budgets, addressing the gaps in the code is often overlooked by many companies – a perfect storm for an attacker who can capitalise by exploiting those vulnerabilities,” says David Morrison, General Manager - Governance, Risk and Compliance at Loop Secure.
“To help reduce the risk, patch management has become a practical and legal requirement for most companies, with budgets and skilled staff required to deal with the complex nature of patching.”
What is patch management exactly? It’s part of the overall systems management that involves acquiring, testing and installing multiple patches to an administered computer system.
As part of this process, IT teams need to maintain their knowledge of available patches that relate to the systems being managed. They need to decide which are the most appropriate, then take the necessary steps to install, test and deploy them.
The good news is that the right patch management software can help busy IT teams streamline the process by assessing vulnerabilities within the code, prioritising patches and generating reports and status updates on patching activities.
Companies can also safeguard themselves from these vulnerabilities by configuring patch management software to handle the array of software systems used.
For small to medium sized companies, there are solutions available that cover all patch management needs. However, for companies beyond 1,000 employees, several different patching tools may be required.
Since patch management tools can be configured in various ways, the solution selected must meet the needs of the company. There are a number of things to consider here, such as what systems are running, what management suites are in place, and how well can the patch management tool can handle various types of patching.
IT teams can also configure patch management software depending on whether they’re running appliance-based, stand-alone solutions or whether it’s part of a larger software product suite.
Additionally, patch management tools can be offered as part of client and server lifecycle management suites or plug-ins that augment those products.
Some patch management tools also offer metrics to benchmark against peers.
“This a great piece of feedback for the CIOs and executive teams to measure how they’re performing compared against others in their industry,” according to Morrison. “Not only that, you can measure your progress over a period of time. This type of feedback ensures you’re heading in the right direction as a company, or whether your patch management process needs further refinement.”
Other software tools may also offer impressive reporting capabilities. Again, it depends on a company’s requirements and its patch management process.
Despite the availability of patch management software solutions, no software or operating system is bulletproof. However, keeping pace with the most appropriate patch management software, combined with the right people and processes, will ensure you reduce your susceptibility to an attack.
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