Following patch management best practices is not just about scanning and applying patches. Often patches need to be deployed in a test environment, undergo an approval process or require multiple steps to deploy. So the question remains: is your IT department patching as efficiently as it could be?
Patch management is an ongoing process designed to proactively prevent the exploitation of IT vulnerabilities. Timely deployment is critical to maintaining the operational availability, confidentiality and integrity of IT systems. Yet failure to keep operating system and application software patched is one of the most common issues identified by IT professionals. Solid patch management best practices today should include an easy to manage, cost-effective solutions that is integrated with your entire IT systems management framework. New patches are released daily, and we understand it’s often difficult for system administrators to keep on top of them all and ensure proper deployment in a timely manner.
As IT environments become more complex and patches increase in frequency, introducing changes on the fly is no longer an option. Manual patching has become ineffective as the numbers of patches that need to be installed grows and as attackers continue to exploit code more rapidly. This is why proactively following patch management best practices is critical and must be an elusive goal. Organizations should use enterprise patch management tools to expedite the distribution of patches to systems, allowing IT administrators to quickly and automatically push patches out to large numbers of systems.
A comprehensive patch management strategy requires the successful and seamless execution of disparate functions. Effective strategy should employ patch management best practices and address planning through implementation. It’s recommended that all organizations have a systematic, accountable and documented process for the timely deployment of patches. Your process should include the following:
- Inventory of all IT resources to determine which hardware equipment, operating systems and software applications are used within the organization
- Analysis to determine current patch levels across all systems
- Creation of a database of patches that need to be applied
- Testing of patches and non-patch remediations on IT devices that use standardized configurations
- Automated patch deployment to IT devices using enterprise tools
- Remediation to bring systems up to date via policy-based solutions
- Verification of remediation through network and host vulnerability scanning
- Reporting to close the loop and begin the cycle again automatically
You should first deploy patch management tools to standardized desktop systems and single-platform server farms of similarly configured servers. Once that has been accomplished, you can address the more complex issue of integrating multi-platform environments, nonstandard desktop systems, legacy devices and devices with unusual configurations.