What is patch management?

Explore Malwarebytes Vulnerability Assessment and Patch Management modules



Patch management definition

Patch management is a process that involves detecting missing software updates and applying patches to correct errors found in your organization’s systems. These errors (also known as “bugs” or “vulnerabilities”) are often weak points for malicious hackers, viruses, and other cyberthreats to attack. When a vulnerability is discovered, a patch is deployed and inserted into the code of an existing software program to update and mend necessary fixes.

In other words, IT professionals and systems maintenance teams rely on patch management software to proactively ensure operating systems, endpoints, servers, software products, and applications remain unsusceptible to exploitation.

Why is patch management important?

Patch management reinforces a cybersecure environment for your organization and maintains smooth performance for operating infrastructure. To simplify and increase the accuracy of patching software, many businesses opt for automated patch management. 

Here are key reasons patch and vulnerability management are important: 

Security

It’s a valuable, preventative tool against cyberthreats, including several types of malware that opportunistically infiltrate your company’s systems. Patching vulnerabilities reduces your risk of cyberattacks, including harmful data breaches.

Improved system uptime 

It works to safeguard productivity and protect business continuity. In a competitive landscape, patch management helps your organization stay up to date, making sure your software and applications run efficiently while minimizing downtime. Choosing to automate the patch management process mitigates human error caused by manual patching.

Featured enhancements 

Besides detecting old software, introducing improved features as a patch helps augment backend efficiency without the disruption of a large full update. It’s an easy-to-use method of deploying the latest innovations your company has to offer and ensures your users have the newest product features at scale.

Compliance

Meeting industry security standards often includes developing a proactive patch management strategy, this may include satisfying necessary requirements for NIST, HIPAA or PCI DSS.

How to choose the best patch management software for your organization?

Your company’s IT personnel must consider numerous aspects when comparing patch management tools. Key factors for choosing the right patch management tool include:

Environment and operating systems

Whether your operating system is Linux or Microsoft, your internal IT team needs to know what types of devices and platforms they are supporting to find a patch management tool that meets their needs.

Automation ability

Your IT leaders want to know how much automation they will need and how much automation a specific tool offers.

Cost and resources

They will need to know what is currently being patched manually and the budget expenditures towards needed IT skills to upkeep supporting these areas.

Agent-based or agent-less

There are many pros and cons to using agent-based or agent-less solutions. Each offer unique advantages and drawbacks. Your IT team needs to consider factors, such as number of workstations, company bandwidth budget, and prioritizing account privilege.

Common problems and patch management solutions

A common problem in patch management involves third party apps, especially legacy applications. There are instances where a breach occurred when a patch had been available for several years, and hadn’t been applied. Legacy software gets forgotten and therefore remains a threat vector for years.

Malwarebytes Nebula Vulnerability and Patch Management module enables you to scan, assess, and deploy patches in a single place with OneView console. The lightweight agent provides intuitive patch solutions along with easy scheduling that won’t interrupt your customer’s productivity.

Patch management FAQ

Patch management is a process that involves updating, deploying, and installing patches to remedy problems such as "bugs" or "vulnerabilities" threatening your organization's cybersecurity posture.

Creating a well-organized and detailed patch management strategy can easily be achieved in a cost-effective way by creating customizable patches to fit your organization’s business practices and system priorities.

Developing a comprehensive strategy starts with understanding patch management best practices:

  1. Generate an inventory of all operating systems and devices: Leverage flexibility by making separate profiles for each device type and system, therefore you can pinpoint critical systems to patch without interrupting others.
  2. Choose a patch management tool tailored to your systems and types of vulnerabilities: Prioritize patches based on level of severity and monitor complete, missing, or failed patches.
  3. Set up a patch management policy: Customize rules for important operating parameters and create policy groups that list proper guidelines for managing vulnerabilities. Categorize patch deployment depending on vendor, type, or severity. Consider implementing a rollback system as a fail-safe plan in case something goes wrong after a patch rollout or during the application process.
  4. Schedule regular scans, detection, and deployment: Scan for missing patches and discern high priority patch groups. Flexible scheduling allows your organization to run scans after a software release and receive critical updates during regular maintenance windows.
  5. Test, analyze reports, and fine-tune: Test patch deployment and application in batches. Try running tests under high stress environments to ensure performance is maintained during production. Track your organization’s progress, re-examine patch policies, and alter to your needs.

5 Stages of the Vulnerability and Patch Management Life Cycle:

  1. Update and identify vulnerability details for your system assets
  2. Prioritize vulnerabilities
  3. Deploy patches and remediate
  4. Report and reassess
  5. Improve and scan

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