Applying software patches is a basic security principle – not always easy to do, but very necessary.

When reflecting on recent large scale international cyber security incidents, one of the contributing factors that stands out is failing to patch all systems and devices. This emphasises the importance of having a well planned and managed patching regime.

Patching is a basic hygiene factor for IT systems, as vulnerabilities in technology are always being discovered. In response, vendors issue security patches to remediate these issues – applying these updates is called patching. Ideally, we want to close the loopholes caused by vulnerabilities before attackers can take advantage of them. Patching can also fix known bugs, add new features and increase system stability which benefits the end user.

Patching is the single most important thing you can do to secure your environment, but this doesn’t mean it is always easy to do!

What makes patching so difficult?

  1. Patching takes time, and costs to automate. It is a constant trade-off between investment in automation and manual intervention which is timely. As a Managed Service Provider, we also need to account for un-planned down time from patching issues that require updates to be reverted to a previous version.
  2. Patching requires a high level of awareness of your IT Landscape, which means you need good systems and documentation in place.
  3. In some circumstances, Technology Debt means you have systems that cannot be patched regularly. It is important to be aware of this technical debt and plan for the future state of the system. Mitigating any key security concerns in a structured, documented manner will help to ensure that the technical debt does not become a burden for your company.

How to develop a more effective approach to patching:

  • A patching plan needs to be incorporated in your overall IT strategy. Process and system simplification can be a great place to start. Removing applications and systems no longer required reduces the resources needed to keep your systems patched.
  • Manage your assets and documentation system simultaneously. Without good documentation, it is difficult to understand the risk of a vulnerability and the effect of a security breach or system downtime in unknown.
  • Actively manage and understand your operational risks.
  • Have a monitoring capability, as being able to pro-actively report on the current state of patching is key.
  • Build patching and incident response into your business continuity plan.

If you would like to learn more about how the IT Partners team can help with your patching regime, send us an email or phone 07 957 2650.