Why is patch management so important in cybersecurity?

Q:

Why is patch management so important in cybersecurity?

A:

The issue of patch management is something that cybersecurity experts often think about in the context of keeping systems safe. Essentially, patches are used to deal with vulnerabilities and security gaps, and as part of regularly supporting applications and software products. In other words, patches have a general role to play in computing, but they have a very specific role to play in cybersecurity.

Software makers will routinely deliver patches for products. These patches have to be applied in order to update systems. Without the patches, the new functionality isn't delivered. A big company like Microsoft delivers large numbers of software patches for many different operating systems and products. Legacy companies like IBM promote patch management as a way to fight back against hackers and maintain system solvency.

Think of patch management in the context of an infamous vulnerability. Take the example of Heartbleed, which threatened systems several years ago. Companies that could not apply patches were at immediate risk. If the hack is the poison, the patch is the antidote, and if you can’t get it, or you get it late, you’re in trouble.

With that said, patch management can be enhanced in several different ways. Patch management automation tools can help with more universal application of patches and better general vigilance in terms of closing loopholes. Another tip is to support heterogenous platform use – this article from Network World makes the specific recommendation of looking at the ways that parts of the system work together, and whether they are supported by a Windows operating system or other type of operating system, implementing patch management across those borders. The article also stresses the idea of patching both remote and on-premises systems, and patching frequently.

New state-of-the-art patch management systems give you granular control over patch management. By setting up a central interface, and implementing tools like auto approvals and other features like scheduling and reporting, these types of innovative patch management platforms can help companies to stay up to date and current, and avoid some of the big problems associated with bad patch management.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.
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