6 Steps To An Effective Patch Management Process

Patch Management Process - A women checking something in a data center

Table of Contents

What is the patch management process? Why is it necessary to have one?

In this article, we are going to talk about how the patch management system works. Why and how to implement an optimal patch management process in your organization. Let’s start with understanding what is patch management.

What Is Patch Management?

Normally many software developers apply a set of updates to fix several technical issues. This set of updates is together known as a patch.

The areas that require most of the patches include operating systems, applications, and embedded systems. Patch management is the process of identifying and deploying these patches to a variety of endpoints. The endpoints can be anything from computers and mobile devices, to servers.

What is OT/ICS Patch Management?

OT stands for operational technology and ICS stands for the industrial control system.

Now, patch management in this kind of setting is full of challenges. Some of those challenges include-

  • Inadequate testing equipment
  • Regulatory reporting and system maintenance
  • Lack of staff for hardware and software systems, etc.

The most basic cybersecurity process is called software patching. There you have to simply update your OT systems. Software update fixes any security or functional holes in your system.

Patch management is this cycle of ensuring baseline data, identifying vulnerabilities, and reviewing patches for applicability.

Why Patch Management Process Is Necessary?

Patching is not an easy job at all. It is a very time-consuming task for several reasons:

  • Lack of end system monitoring and automated inventory
  • Monitoring patch releases for all systems and apps may be challenging.
  • Availability of review, approval, or mitigation time for patches in a process.
  • Evaluating and distributing fixes one by one to various endpoint groups.
  • Time to install on each device and ensure the update is functioning properly.
  • It’s time to update baselines and record changes.

Top Six Steps To Effective OT/ICS Patch Management

Automated patch management tool helps organizations carry out the patch management process. An effective process has 3 basic elements-

  • Reviewing security patch releases
  • Prioritizing patching efforts based on the severity of the vulnerability
  • Testing patch compatibility and installing multiple patches across all affected endpoints

Here are 6 steps for an effective patch management process-

Step 1- Establish Baseline OT Asset Inventory

The first issue that many firms have is compiling a thorough inventory of their assets. It is important to know what equipment is plugged in, where it is situated, and what software is installed.

So first create a complete inventory of all your assests. You can use either human labor or expansion of current corporate tools and agent-based technology.

To connect to the non-Windows workstations regularly (mind alone automatically), practically all industrial operator networks experience difficulties. Up to 75% of all assets in a typical operational network are made up of these proprietary systems.

Step 2- Gather Software Patch And Vulnerability Information

The second difficulty is keeping track of the needed and available patches. The fundamental building blocks of Office, Windows, Linux, Unix, and other programs like Adobe are simple. However, updating third-party apps typically requires a manual inspection of the vendor’s website.

Operators should investigate fixes to see whether any security issues are fixed. The work becomes increasingly more challenging due to a large number of these programs.

Strong skills for vulnerability assessment are necessary for efficient patch administration. Traditional IT solutions with scan-based techniques are ineffective for OT/ICS systems. This is due to the delicate nature of the devices and their firmware.

Therefore you require a specific OT/ICS vulnerability assessment for gathering information from such robust software.

Step 3- Identify Vulnerability Relevancy And Filter

Using the asset inventory to filter and choose which changes to apply to which assets is very tricky.

Many businesses compile lists of prospective software patches that may be released. But using these lists to assign priority to patches creates logistical challenges and labor-intensive tasks. You need to devise a proper filtering system to identify the critical vulnerabilities.

The study of which patches are needed and for which systems are sped up greatly by this filtering procedure.

Step 4- Review, Approve And Mitigate Patch Management

Many patch management techniques stop there and rely on other tools or procedures for approval and execution. Users of the patching module can create baselines for both authorized and disapproved fixes.

These baselines also represent those that a particular vendor has authorized. The complication of attempting to manually recall which patches should and should not be deployed is avoided once this baseline of authorized and disapproved patches is in place since the dashboards are filtered to report on only those changes that have been approved.

Users can categorize fixes in whatever way they like by creating as many baselines as they’d like.

Step 5- Test and Deploy Vulnerability Patches

Clients frequently do not have the time to test software fixes for Cyber Security.

In the next level of patch management, the customers are enabled to programmatically distribute fixes across OEM Windows, Unix, and Linux systems directly from the interface. It’s crucial to note that the interface enables you to arrange deployment on one or two assets first to check that the update functions well on less important devices.

Additional controls are specified in the console and communicated to the end device, such as restarting (or not rebooting) the end device, showing a message, or retrying in case of failure.

Many people oversee the administrative assessment and approval of patches before delegating management of the deployment of the authorized packages to some engineers. By doing this, they free up business workers to work on operational activities rather than tedious compliance chores.

Step 6- Profile and Document The Process

The obligation to baseline systems before and after the deployment of a patch is one of the more time-consuming regulatory and administrative responsibilities associated with patch management.

To protect the new configuration and uphold compliance, all modifications to that baseline must be documented and placed into corporate change management procedures.

Any modifications to the target systems are immediately flagged by the agent-based systems. Even more potent is the Agentless Device Interface. It gathers and verifies that patch updates have been applied to networking, relays, PLCs, and other embedded devices, and catalogs 75% of agentless devices.

Customers may use this patching tool to do a baseline analysis following an update to ensure the most recent version is installed.

Conclusion

To effectively manage software updates, a reliable automated patch management process is essential. It should be as thorough but also quick and easy to maintain the security, integrity, and accessibility of the data and systems of any firm.

Want help with your patch management process?

Contact WPG to get experts to guide you through the entire process.

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Hitesh Patel
Hitesh Patel
Hitesh Patel is an engineer turned business owner of WPG Consulting. He is a techie enthusiast who believes in finding creative IT solutions to solve consumer problems.

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