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Enterprise patch management: Top 5 best practices

April 20, 2020

Enterprise patch management is a key component in the security strategy of every business. IT environments are much sophisticated today with diversified devices and multi-level network systems. And it will become weak at some point and be more vulnerable. Leaving them unnoticed and not be fixing the patches at times adds more security threats from various channels.

The authorized and unauthorized list of software plus plenty of systems and end-point devices makes it more complex to manage. This poses a severe threat to the entire IT environment and makes it more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Primarily, patch management is essential for securing four core environment in an enterprise setting

  1. Application software environment
  2. Enterprise IT network infrastructure
  3. Operating System Premises
  4. Server Infrastructure premises

Besides, enterprise patch management is an inevitable process that contributes to a significant boost in business productivity and, thereby, the efficiency of the entire enterprise operation. But, most of the time, people neglect it under the security department. Further, failing to formulate an adequate patching strategy which results in unexpected downtimes and productivity dip.

Here let’s check the top 5 enterprise patch management best practices

Formulate a robust enterprise patch management strategy:

Moving with a clear target to carry out your enterprise patch management will help a lot to simplify the process. By identifying the precise status of the end-point devices, server infrastructure, performance of the operating systems, meshing of networks and applications reduces the unrest across the IT environment of the enterprises.

Jimmy Graham, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualys, at Black Hat USA 2019 said, patch management is a tailored process, and it has a broader scope than ensuring security but improves the performance of the entire business. That points to an assumption that every enterprise should form a strategic plan to perform patch management exclusively.

Plus, identifying the exact location of the systems is also imperative to formulate a robust enterprise patch management strategy. The systems running over the cloud, on-premise, and off-premise has to be covered with appropriate patch management practice.

In fact, each of these environments needs a distinctive patch management policy to follow up. For example, cloud patch management involves less expensive and manual interference to perform patching across the infrastructure.

At the same time, the on-premise and non-cloud based need more manual interference and that the patching process incurs massive spending and demands constant manual efforts to complete the patching process. Plus, the tools and the systems that need to be deployed to detect critical patching updates across different infrastructure is also varies.

So, based on these significant factors, enterprise patch management practice has to be framed with robust policies and proven management models.

Develop an emergency Patch management checklist:

The two important patch management models that every enterprise has to keep in hands ready are emergency and standard patching procedures. Hence, enterprises essentially need to develop a list to define what has to be done as a regular patch management practice and for emergency patch management practice.

Standard patch management procedures deal with the regular network, software, security, and operating system patching. It includes following up new patching updates as it is released by the vendors, and it should go in a predefined way with a monthly or weekly timetable.

Emergency patch management procedures are critically for patching the components that are out of the patching schedule. It may interrupt the working atmosphere of the business. Plus, the emergency patching checklist should be framed with adequate proven practices. It should be communicated with possibly affected departments and users in advance.

However, companies can avoid the headache of emergency patching by running a stringent routine patching process.

Be updated about each patch releases:

You may hear about Patch Tuesday (Microsoft’s monthly patch schedule). Likewise, all of your operating systems, applications must have a monthly patch release schedule, and once in a while, new patches will come in an emergency schedule.

Especially in an emergency situation, as cyber attackers try to take advantage, IT service and product providers release emergency patches across their system.

To illustrate, Microsoft urges its users to update the systems with new patches to fend off the attacks this month, and Oracle also released critical emergency security patch updates for their products.

The new software updates, firmware patches, and device security patches, network emergency patches, and so on are very vital to secure the IT systems from potential cyber threats. Plus, these patches should be updated promptly.

Thus, the IT administrators in the enterprises or the managed IT service provider of your enterprise have to keep an eye over the new patch releases.

Maintain a patch testing environment:

The Enterprise patch management team should understand the potential impact of each patch release. They should not go blind and deploy the new version. Unfortunately, the survey shows, only a few are really serious about patch testing/ pre-deployment patch testing.

Hence, there are few facts that every enterprise has to abide  by before deploying the patch

  1. Define a pre-deployment patch management process
  2. Keep ‘patch fatigue’ away from the enterprise IT environment
  3. Update to new patch management testing team as you scale

This testing environment will vary as per the complexity of the enterprise IT environment. As the enterprise scales high, testing procedures have to be sophisticated and become more time-consuming. So, it is imperative to upkeep the testing infrastructure as the enterprise IT setting.

In fact, enterprises with an efficient managed patch management provider seem to be out of the headache. However, if your in-house IT team has the resource and time to handle it, it is fair enough.

Virtual servers are a great space to test new patches that are quite easier and cheaper to carry out the process. However, patch testing is not an easy process to carry out in a spree, but it takes time and sometimes goes beyond our plans. Hence, it is always good to have a pre-deployment patch testing policy for your enterprises.

Review the result of the applied the patches:

Though patch testing gives an outline about the impact of the new release, enterprises must review the result of the latest patch. Besides, the followed procedures and time that inured to deploy a new patch have to be taken into account either.

By reviewing the result of the new patch, enterprises can analyze and evaluate the efficiency that gained accurately than a guesstimate.

Automated patching tools are a great help to perform these tasks without any manual interventions. Those sophisticated tools automate the whole process and give accurate insights as well. Plus, enterprises can assign mundane patching and monitoring tasks to the tools and reduce the manual effort by far.

Final Thought:

Enterprise patch management is a critical process to secure the IT environment as a whole. The regular patch releases are essential to perform an uninterrupted business flow across the environment. Hence to make sure an effective patch management practice,  enterprises can hire professional enterprise patch management providers/ they can hire in-house IT patch management teams. Either way, enterprises should upkeep a stringent patch management policy

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