Is Automated Patch Management Safe?

Sysadmins and IT managers burdened with the responsibility of patching systems manually are thrilled with the idea of implementing an automated patch management process. Automating the process removes time consuming tasks including checking each workstation and server for vulnerabilities, identifying missing patches, applying the patches to each machine, and then doing it again and again across the entire infrastructure.

Despite the time, resource, and financial savings that automated patch management affords, many IT professionals remain hesitant to automate the process. A leading reason for this is the misconception of a lack of control with an automated solution.  Organizations with network dependencies fear that automated patch management, and the ability to apply patches automatically, will cause more problems than it solves.

The Risks of Automating Patch Management

Staying up-to-date on patching is crucial for network security and compliance, but applying a patch that negatively impacts the network can be riskier than not patching at all. Updates released by Microsoft and other reputable software distributors have been known to “brick”[1] computers or take down networks, resulting in lost productivity, angry customers, and a fire drill for the IT team.

Today’s mixed OS and hybrid cloud environments are complex, consisting of a mix of hundreds or thousands of systems, multiple OS versions, and a growing list of software applications. Compounding the complexity, many companies built programs around legacy software or hardware which needs to stay active. Application of patches that have not been tested and manually approved is too risky of a proposition.

Unfortunately, not patching is no longer an option. New regulations, cyber insurance requirements, and concern from the board are driving mandatory patch management processes.  With thousands of new exploits every year, automation is the only way to keep up with patching needs.

Automated Patch Management You Control

Fortunately, this fear often comes out of a lack of knowledge around how newer automated patch management systems work. When patch automation was first released, it was largely on-premise, meaning it was another piece of infrastructure that IT Managers needed to maintain and update.

Early patch automation systems did not give users much control over how and when patches were applied. This resulted in IT teams patching low-severity vulnerabilities automatically, with critical patches still remediated manually. These solutions did not support patch testing workflows.

Modern, cloud-based patch automation systems are a departure from their on-premise counterparts and change the way patch automation is utilized. Cloud-based solutions including Automox remove the need for ongoing maintenance of the patch automation system itself. Automox also adds several layers of control that result in a solution which can seamlessly integrate with company’s unique internal patching process.

Patches can be classified by their level of priority, rules can be set dictating what systems can be automatically patched and which require admin approval, and reports demonstrating patch status across a network can quickly be generated. Security teams can test patches in their existing testbed, and once vetted, benefit from an automated workflow for deployment to production.

Advanced automated patch management solutions also reduce the chance that devices will be left unpatched if a patch fails to apply. Automated solutions validate that patches have been applied across all devices, re-apply failed patches, and provide detailed system data if further errors are encountered.

Today’s automated solutions remove a majority of human effort required to maintain a patched environment. The ability to control the degree of automation has removed the risk factor associated with automated patch management.


About Automox

Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.

Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, Mac, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.

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