What is Patch Management, Really?

What is patch management?

Patch management is the process in which security and/or IT teams identify and apply software or system patches to their organization’s endpoints when new patches or updates become available. Patch management best practices refer to processes and tasks that align with a proven ability to reduce corporate exposure to cyber threats.

Patch management is essential for minimizing your attack surface and keeping your cybersecurity game on point. Even so, many organizations struggle to keep up with patch management best practices and maintain good cyber hygiene. Whether it's on-premise complexity, dark endpoints, or plain old patch procrastination hindering your patching process, there’s no shortage of solutions that can help your organization improve its patching strategy.

At its core, patch management strengthens your endpoints to prevent attacks. An efficient patching strategy is one of the strongest methods of endpoint hardening to keep every device up to date, compliant, and secure to prevent attacks.

With an effective patch management solution and process in place, you can expand the consistency of deploying patches and be confident your software, hardware, and systems have the latest patches.

Patching moves to the cloud

Not so long ago, orgs were inhibited by ineffective, on-premise hardware and a maze of resources needed to manage it all. But now, many companies are revelling in the scalability, flexibility, and efficiency their multi-cloud investments bring.

As called out in our 2022 IT Trends Playbook, Gartner VP Milind Govekar said, “There’s really no business strategy anymore without cloud strategy.

It’s exciting because cloud infrastructure is becoming increasingly programmable every day. That’s why you’re seeing more automation in infrastructure operation, overall.

The great thing about cloud-based infrastructure is that it requires far fewer manual interventions than its on-premises counterpart tools demand. And industries of all kinds are adopting the cloud at lightening speed.

Tech giant Gartner recently forecast end user spending on public cloud services to grow 21.7% in 2022. Based on their prediction, end user spending on cloud services will likely reach $482 billion by the end of the year.

On that note, let’s discuss cloud patch management best practices.

Top 4 best practices for cloud patch management

Being a patch management expert has also gotten a lot more complicated, especially in the last few years. Digital transformation and remote work have amplified the move to the cloud, but as a result, you’re likely patching on-prem, cloud, and hybrid environments – no easy task!

To effectively patch your cloud-based infrastructure and maintain compliance and security across your organization, we’ve compiled these best practices.

1. Stay up-to-date on the latest vulnerabilities

By first understanding what the risks are, you can more appropriately block and remove threats.

First, make sure you have robust vulnerability detection and scanning capabilities to identify, categorize and manage incoming vulnerabilities. Such vulnerabilities can include unsecured system configurations or missing patches, as well as other security-related updates in the systems connected to the enterprise network directly – remotely or in the cloud.

From Rapid7 and Tenable to Qualys, there are many powerful vulnerability scanning vendors to choose from. Make sure they’re integrated within your tech stack and work with your patch solution, such as Automox, to quickly take action against threats whether that’s a patch, a system reconfiguration, or the removal of vulnerable software.

Automox together with Rapid7 offers Automated Vulnerability Remediation (AVR) to help your team discover unmanaged endpoints and shorten vulnerability remediation cycles. AVR automatically ingests vulnerability information right from your existing scanning and detection solutions like Rapid7 InsightVM – just configure, ingest vulnerability information, and remediate.

2. Use a single solution for patching

Patching has been around for a long time. Yet, many companies still struggle with timely patching and missed patches. This problem remains at the heart of oh-so-many breaches.

When you have multiple OSes and third-party software installed across on-prem, remote, and devices in the cloud, you can see how the challenge of patching can quickly spiral. Often companies use several patching tools and ad-hoc manual workarounds to patch their environments, but adding more tools to a problem only compounds the issue.

To resolve this, we recommend keeping it simple with a single cloud-based solution that can address every endpoint, regardless of its OS or where it resides.

With a cloud-hosted platform, you can look forward to no maintenance or VPN requirements while eliminating unnecessary hardware investments and resources. This frees up your dollars and technicians’ cycles for more high-value work.

Support for Windows, macOS, and Linux can also offer the same seamless experience for all OS types. And that enables you to patch all devices in your clients’ environments – from a single pane of glass.

3. Keep an up-to-date inventory of assets

You can’t fix what you can’t see. As previously highlighted, more and more endpoints are either located in the cloud or using cloud services to access data. IT departments require visibility across their environment in order to accurately assess their security posture and risk level.

Find tools that promote endpoint visibility and support a single source of truth. The ability to see all of your servers and workstations in one dashboard reduces the time spent assessing patch status, improves your security position, and enables accurate reporting to executives and stakeholders.

4. Automate where you can

Last but not least automate wherever possible.

Automation won’t just keep your IT staff sane, but it will improve user productivity and maintain your organization's ability to pivot quickly in an ever-evolving environment.

From onboarding and de-provisioning users to patching devices across your multi-cloud environments or deploying software, automation holds the key to driving your dynamic cloud infrastructure forward.

Furthermore, automation can help you:

  • Wipe out any redundant work

  • Hold onto your IT staff and enhance job satisfaction

  • Power your organization’s ability to scale

Of course, these are only a few of the benefits of automating your patch management process.

Be a proactive patcher – don’t grow complacent!

From the expansion of the cloud to a growing remote workforce, cybercriminals are jumping on the opportunity to exploit the gaps within an increased attack surface.

According to Shimon Oren, VP of Research and Deep Learning at security company Deep Instinct, “You have a much bigger attack surface; not necessarily because you have more employees, but because they’re all in different locations, operating from different networks, not working with the organization’s perimeter network on multiple types of devices. The complexity of the attack surface grows dramatically.” (ZDNet)

Even with a robust and finely-tuned patching solution, sitting back or giving up is never an option with attacks continuously being re-engineered and new threats being developed constantly.

Put yourself in an attacker's shoes – think like them, and imagine their mindset at all times. Optimize the use of your vulnerability scanning tools and maintain timeliness in your patching cadence.

You’ll find you can more easily predict and block vulnerabilities by keeping a keen eye on what may lie ahead and using your tools effectively for the long haul.


Automox for Easy IT Operations

Automox is the cloud-native IT operations platform for modern organizations. It makes it easy to keep every endpoint automatically configured, patched, and secured – anywhere in the world. With the push of a button, IT admins can fix critical vulnerabilities faster, slash cost and complexity, and win back hours in their day.

Grab your free trial of Automox and join thousands of companies transforming IT operations into a strategic business driver.

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