What is Patch Management and Why Does It Matter?

With all of the talk about network security lately, and us constantly reminding everyone of the need to employ basic security measures like patch management, firewalls, anti-virus software and end-user education, we thought it might be smart to take a step back and focus on one basic question that is prompted by that laundry list; what is patch management?

What Is Patch Management?

Let’s start by explaining what a patch is.  A patch is a piece of code that can be applied to a software program after it has been installed.  Patches are created in order to correct issues with that program that are discovered after it has been released.  You can think of it like a bandage or a fix for the program or system.

So, it follows that patch management is the systematic and documented management of patches.  But we want to be thorough, so let’s also clearly define the practice.

According to TechTarget, patch management is an area of systems management that involves acquiring, testing and installing multiple patches (code changes) to an administered computer system.  Specific patch management tasks include maintaining knowledge of available patches that relate to the systems being managed and then deciding which are appropriate and taking the steps to install, test and fully deploy them.

A common example of a patch are Windows updates.  If you use Windows, you are probably familiar with those messages from your operating system (OS) prompting you to accept them, or with Windows 10, that your machine will need to be restarted due to updates.

[10 Signs Your Office 365 Account May Be Hacked]

Well if you never really thought about what those are, many times they are patches that are created to fix security issues.  Check out the Windows 10 update history to see what we mean – some are updates to improve the overall user experience, but here are 3 examples from just their March 8 release:

  • Fixed security issue created when attempting to play corrupted content.
  • Fixed security issue that could allow remote code execution while viewing a PDF in Microsoft Edge.
  • Fixed additional security issues with Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11, USB storage driver, kernel mode drivers, .NET Framework, graphic fonts, OLE, secondary logon, PDF library, and Adobe Flash Player.

Another example of a patch are the updates that get pushed to iPhones (and iPads and iPods) on a regular basis.  As with Windows, the update is usually going to include tweaks to the overall functionality for an improved user experience, but also a patch that addresses any security vulnerabilities that Apple has discovered in the current OS.

Why is Patch Management Necessary?

Now that we know what patch management is, let’s talk about why it exists.

The reason for that is actually simple.  As soon as software or an operating system get released, there are hackers out there looking for holes and vulnerabilities that will let them in.

Sometimes patches get released because unfortunately the hackers were successful in identifying and then exploiting the weakness and so the vendor goes back and patches it up to shut them down.  In order cases, the vendors themselves find the glitches first and then issue the patch that is needed to correct it.  Or possibly it’s just to strengthen overall security, because they found a better way to do that.

[Difference Between Foundational Vs Cyber Security]

What is the Goal of Patch Management as a Practice?

Patch management exists in order to protect business networks and systems from these ever-present cyberthreats.  In specific terms, it’s a best practice towards protecting your data and avoiding hacks that can be very costly for any business.

Patch management isn’t something that can be ignored.  Cybersecurity threats are increasing every day and becoming more and more sophisticated.

Because here’s the thing – these patches only work if they get applied.  Sounds pretty obvious right?

That would be great.  However, the reality is that it isn’t, particularly for any business that is already stretched thin with resources and doesn’t necessarily have an IT expert supporting them.  It’s easily overlooked or possibly even intentionally ignored.

If you think that sounds far-fetched, consider that a ransomware attack in Baltimore last May.  The ransomware called Robbinhood attacked both Baltimore, Greenville, NC and Atlanta. Luckily both Greenville and Atlanta had cyber insurance and have been working to restore services and rebuild their data and IT infrastructure.  This attack could have been better avoided with the help of patch management. This would have avoided any disruptions to service, loss of data and hefty pay outs.

So instead of allowing these patches to get ignored or spinning your wheels trying to decipher every single patch available and determine if it’s critical, best practice for any business is to work with your IT support team on a documented patch management process.

Next Steps

Find out how Corsica Technologies can use its fully automated patch identification and installation systems to help keep your organization to date. While avoiding a cyber-attack is not entirely unavoidable, working with a trusted IT partner such as Corsica Technologies can help mitigate these risks.  Any of our experts here at Corsica would be happy to help guide you on your IT journey to being secure.  Give us a call today

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Corsica Technologies
Corsica provides personalized service and a virtual CIO (vCIO) who serves as a strategic advisor. When it comes to the complex integration of solutions for IT and cybersecurity, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We offer cybersecurity solutions, managed services, digital transformation, resale services, and one-off technology projects. Corsica unifies any combination of these services into a complete, seamless solution.

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