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Why Patching Is Important

Following the recent cyberattacks on JBS meatpacking company and Colonial Pipeline, the White House released a memo urging business leaders to safeguard their business against ransomware. The government highlighted five best practices for protecting businesses (and individuals) against ransomware attacks.

Last week we discussed backups. Today we’ll walk you through prompt updates and patches.

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Updates vs. Patches

Fact: all patches are updates, but not all updates are patches.

While updates deal with a range of features, patches focus on resolving any vulnerabilities in an application.  (Note, it can take multiple patches to solve a system vulnerability.)

While updating and patching systems are essential for your business, differentiating the two helps solve critical vulnerabilities with ease.

Understanding Updates

“Update” is a relatively broad term that covers different features and vulnerabilities. An “update” is issued for different reasons, such as:

  • New features and other system improvements
  • Fixes for performance bugs

While updates are helpful, many people consider them as “the annoying pop-ups they love to ignore.” Others people may consider updates as a time-consuming mandate –more so when loaded with other tasks. Still, other people skip updates following a bad experience with previous updates. Think of slower processing and malfunctions.

Update turn-offs are particularly prevalent in an office setting. No one wants to cause an inconvenience that can slow down business processes. That’s why 80% of CIOs and CISOs admit to postponing updates.

Now you may be able to postpone updates, but patches not so much.

Understanding Patches

Unlike updates, patches have a specific goal. They repair a flaw or vulnerability identified after the release of a software or application.

A new patch can:

  • Fix a security flaw
  • Fix a bug
  • Fix a security vulnerability
  • Enhance applications with new features

Why Patching is Important

Unpatched systems are vulnerable to ransomware attacks. Generally, hackers (malicious actors) use code to exploit any weaknesses in the security of a software program or operating system. Over 60% of security breaches are traced back to unpatched system weaknesses.

While experience shows that few businesses take patching action when necessary, don’t be in that category. Patching is critical for your business because:

  • It fixes vulnerabilities on your applications or software, lowering the risk of ransomware attacks.
  • It forms a necessary component of adhering to cybersecurity compliance standards. (In other words, it eliminates any chances of incurring monetary fines from regulatory bodies)
  • It enhances the performance of new features.
  • It fixes functionality bugs keeping your systems running and customers happy.
  • It provides ways to deploy tech innovations to your applications or software at scale.

When you identify a vulnerability/weakness, you can either:

  • Install a patch if available
  • Implement compensating controls to mitigate the vulnerability without patching, or
  • Accept the risk associated with the “vulnerability” and do nothing!

Obviously, patch management is the safest route.

What’s Patch Management?

Patch management is the process of acquiring, testing, and installing multiple code changes (patches) on existing software and applications. The goal is to:

  • Enable tech systems to remain updated on the latest patches
  • Determine the most appropriate patches for a given system (patch testing), and
  • Deploy the identified patches promptly to safeguard the existing systems

Manual vs. Automated Patch Management

As mentioned, patch management serves to detect missing patches, text the existing patches for compatibility with the system, and install the hotfixes regularly. It also provides instant updates (or reports) on the latest patch deployments/installation.

Given the high budget and time pressures facing business owners (and their IT departments), automating the day-to-day patch management routine is critical. This automation uses patch management software to ensure all the computer systems remain updated with the latest code changes from software or application vendors.

Besides saving time and reducing cost, automation ensures consistent patching for more reduced security risks. It also makes the patching process more streamlined and deploys updates to every system in your network.

Side note: If you’re starting or have a small system network (say 2-3 computers), you can embrace manual patch management. Here, your IT guy can run a patch report of your apps and software. And show you the current status of your updates.

If some applications are out-of-date, search for updates on the search bar and run the resulting options manually. Once done, set for updates to run automatically.

For Window users, that means:

  • Going to the search bar next to the “Start” icon
  • Typing “Windows Updates”
  • Clicking on the resulting option(s)
  • Checking whether the updates are current (if not)
  • Running a manual update, and
  • Ticking the automatic box for Window updates to run automatically

How Automated Patch Management Work

An effective automated patch management solution equips each business/enterprise to update its endpoint with current patch releases, irrespective of the operating systems. Here, the automated patch management solution:

  • Automates different stages (and steps) of the patching process
  • Scan any devices in your business system for missing updates (and patches)
  • Automate the downloading process of missing updates (and patches) released by software vendors
  • Automates patch deployment process as per the laid out deployment policies (without manual interference)
  • Reports (or update reports) on the status of the patch deployment system.

Best Practices in Patch Management

To enhance cybersecurity through patch management, organizations should:

  • Understand the significance of patch management in ensuring cybersecurity
  • Act promptly to deploy the latest path updates and protect their enterprise from zero-day threats. (Any delay can cause a substantial loss of data and business)
  • Outsource the services to experienced managed service providers. (Outsourcing allows you to focus on management and revenue-generating business activities. It also creates better chances for optimal patch management at half the price of hiring an IT person full-time.)
  • Run patch tests before deploying them to ensure they are compatible with the operating system(s). (Failure to can cause system crashes.)
  • Work collaboratively with IT teams to minimize any data silos and eliminate any language barrier. (For example, IT/DevOps teams may refer to the software errors as “patches,” whereas the safety teams may prefer the term “risks.” Collaboration ensure every team member is on the same page.)
  • Set clear outcome expectations and hold IT teams accountable.
  • Establish a breach (and related disasters) recovery processes (a.k.a. a backup plan)

Colorado Computer Support is Here to Help

It’s one thing to create an automated patch management solution; an entirely different story to stick to the set patching strategy. Maintaining cybersecurity-sensitive teams calls for continuous security awareness training, which can be costly and time-intensive.

Fortunately for you, Colorado Computer Support (CSS) is an expert at patch management. We provide patch testing, regular deployment, and more. We also monitor your technological systems (24/7) to detect and mitigate potential cyberattacks. Our primary focus is to help your business improve operational efficiency and productivity through customized IT support. Contact us today for a discussion on how CSS can help your business lower cybersecurity risks.

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