What are patches?
Patches modify operating systems and software to improve security, fix bugs, and improve performance. They are created by software developers and fix vulnerabilities that attackers can target.
Why is patch management necessary?
Patch management is necessary for the following reasons:
- security– Hackers try to exploit weaknesses in cyber security. Installing patches addresses software vulnerabilities and therefore reduces an organization’s cybersecurity risks.
- Compliance– Regulators or government agencies may require organizations to adhere to patch management standards. Complying with these requirements can help companies avoid sanctions, fines or penalties.
- Functionality improvements—In addition to addressing security issues and fixing bugs, patches can also offer feature and functionality improvements to help the software run smoothly
- Minimize downtime̵1; With the improvements that patches provide, programs can run more efficiently. This can increase production by minimizing downtime and improving the user experience.
How is patch management performed?
The patch management process can be performed by a company’s IT team, an automated patch management tool, or a combination of both. Steps in the patch management process include:
- Identify IT assets (inventory) and their locations— Inventorying IT assets and where they are located is a crucial first step in the patch management process. This is particularly important as employees increasingly work remotely.
- Identify critical systems and vulnerabilities—Being aware of critical systems and identifying and tracking vulnerabilities are also important aspects of patch management. It is important to note existing security features (such as firewalls and anti-virus software) and what they protect against. With this information, an IT team can more easily determine which systems need patching when vulnerabilities are discovered or reported.
- Test and apply patch– Before applying the fixes to all systems, it is best to test them on a representative subset of the IT inventory. This can help ensure that the updates do not create unforeseen problems. Once testing is complete, start rolling out the patches to the rest of the assets. It is advisable to do this in batches, as this can help identify potential problems before they become too widespread.
- Track progress and maintain records— During the rollout, it is advisable to keep track of the progress. After the patches are installed, it is important to have proper documentation that notes which assets have been updated.
Having a comprehensive patch management process not only increases a company’s cybersecurity posture and helps keep operations running smoothly, but is also a practice often required by insurance underwriters to obtain cyber insurance.
If you would like additional information and resources, we are here to help you analyze your needs and make the right coverage decisions to protect your business from unnecessary risk. You can download a free copy of our eBook, or if you’re ready make Cyber Liability Insurance part of your insurance portfolio, request a quote or download and get started with our Cyber & Data Breach Insurance Application then we’ll get started for you.