Posted: Tue 30th Nov 2021
Every year, thousands of IT security vulnerabilities are discovered, with software vendors creating patches to fix them. As a result, it’s vital that businesses secure their IT systems by installing these patches as soon as they’re released.
Yet a study by the Ponemon Institute found that 60% of data breaches occurred because the IT users in question hadn’t applied a patch that was available.
Staying one step ahead of cybercriminals can be difficult, especially where manual processes are involved and IT resources are already stretched. In this blog, we cover:
what patch management is
why it’s so important
some best practice you can implement to keep your IT system secure
What is patch management?
When software vendors identify vulnerabilities or bugs in their products, they release patches to fix them. Often, they do this as a stop-gap measure until they’re able to publish a newer and more secure version of their programs.
Patch management is the process that companies or IT staff follow to consistently acquire, test and install these patches to existing software and endpoints (remote devices) on the corporate network.
If you don’t install a patch promptly, your software and hardware may not run as efficiently, and your business could be exposed to significant security risks.
Why is patch management so vital?
Patch management is really important for a variety of reasons:
Perhaps the most obvious and compelling reason for you to adopt a good patch management process is to protect your business from cyberattacks.
When developers release a new patch, cybercriminals use it to uncover the source of the vulnerability and then work to exploit it with malware. The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning means they can now do this faster than ever.
The consequences of not installing a patch in time can be severe. Your business could:
have its data stolen
suffer damage to its reputation
see critical systems taken down
become exposed to ransomware attacks (when a cybercriminal breaks into your system and locks your files, then demands a ransom to restore your access)
Keeps systems running smoothly
Developers release patches to:
fix bugs that may cause a system to crash or not function as expected
improve software features
Updates also help to avoid compatibility issues with other software applications.
Helps you stay in line with the law
Governments and regulatory bodies are continuously developing regulations to protect consumers. If your business fails to keep to these rules, it could face legal penalties and hefty fines.
For example, in the US, patching vulnerable software is a vital part of comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Best practice for patch management
As you develop your patch management process, consider incorporating the following best practice:
Patch proactively and prioritise critical vulnerabilities
Avoid urgent and stressful situations by applying patches proactively. Install critical updates immediately.
Vendors develop critical patches to fix vulnerabilities that, if exploited, could allow cybercriminals to run harmful programs (malware) without you having any interaction with your system.
Automate where possible
Cyber security threats evolve very quickly. Combined with the risk of human error in manual processes, automating your patch management becomes extremely important.
Look to automate key stages of your patching process, from prioritising and testing patches to scanning devices and deployment. Learn more about this with Avast Business Patch Management.
Develop a disaster recovery plan
If your patch management fails or causes issues, it pays to have a disaster recovery plan. The simplest and most common option is to back up your system regularly. You may also want to consider:
whether you can roll back patches (uninstall them; not all patches can be removed after installation)
how you’ll approach a security breach if you don’t apply a patch in time
Free 30-day trial: Avast Business Hub
Get a free 30-day trial of our integrated security platform, the Business Hub with Antivirus and Patch Management. Easily manage both security solutions centrally from one location for multiple devices.
About Avast Business
Avast Business provides simple yet powerful security solutions for SMBs and IT service providers. Backed by one of the largest, most globally dispersed threat detection networks, the Avast Business security portfolio makes it easy and affordable to secure, manage, and monitor business devices.
The result is superior protection that businesses can count on. For more information about our managed services and cybersecurity solutions, visit www.avast.com/business.