What are patches and how do they help protect your business?

Written by Zarbtech

Written by Zarbtech

01 May 2024
What are patches and how do they help protect your business?
System patches might not always take centre stage in cybersecurity discussions, but they play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of your digital infrastructure. In our interconnected world, understanding the different types of patches and their influence on system security is essential knowledge for business leaders and IT professionals alike.

This article will demystify patches, so you can implement a patching strategy that fortifies your systems against the evolving threats of the digital landscape.

The Role of Patches in System Security

Before we dissect the different categories of patches, it's vital to understand the overarching importance of patch management.

First, a simple question: “What are patches?”

Patches are essentially updates that software vendors release to fix identified bugs and vulnerabilities or to improve the functionality of their products. Neglecting to apply these updates can leave your systems open to exploitation by malicious actors.
  • The Critical Nature of Security Patches

Starting with the most important type, security patches are issued as a response to vulnerabilities that have been discovered. These patches are not optional. They are necessary to prevent potential breaches. Cyber threats evolve continuously, and new vulnerabilities are a constant security concern. Without timely application of security patches, businesses face the risk of data breaches, systems hijacking, and a myriad of other dangers.
  • Feature Patches and Systems Enhancement

Feature patches are about more than just security. They introduce new features or enhancements to the software, potentially improving user experience and operational efficiency. However, they also come with their own set of risks. A balance must be struck between the desire for additional features and the need to maintain a secure system. Knowing what feature patches to install and which to ignore is a decision best left to trusted IT professionals.
  • Compatibility Patches for Fluid Operations

Compatibility patches are designed to ensure that your system's software functions smoothly with existing and updated operating environments. Incompatibility can lead to performance issues or system failures, directly impacting your business operations and possibly affecting your security posture.

The Cumulative Impact on System Security

In isolation, each patch mitigates specific risks within the software for which it is designed. Together, the patches create part of a holistic defense strategy that protects not only the software in question but the entire ecosystem. Neglecting one type of patch affects the integrity of the entire system, potentially leading to so-called 'chain reactions' of vulnerabilities.

Case in Point: Forbes Reports Patching Failure in Notable Breach

In a Forbes article titled, The Imperative of Patching: A Resolution for Cybersecurity in 2024, author Emil Sayegh said, "Recent cybersecurity events, highlighted by a major breach at ICBC bank, have cast a glaring spotlight on the importance of patching as a vital component of cybersecurity." Sayegh goes on to note that, "In an era where digital threats are constantly evolving, patching is not a choice but a necessity."1

Best Practices for Painless Patch Management

Given that patch management is complex and multifaceted, it's crucial to establish structured processes to handle patches effectively. Proactive patch management is not a one-time event; it's an ongoing practice that requires strategy, oversight, and adaptability.

Implementing a Structured Patch Management Strategy

A systematic approach to patch management involves identifying the patches relevant to your systems and establishing protocols for prompt deployment. This should include prioritising security patches while also considering the impact of feature and compatibility updates.

Automation vs. Manual Patching Processes

Automated patch management tools can significantly streamline the process, ensuring that critical updates are not missed. However, manual oversight should always complement these tools, particularly when assessing the potential impact of updates on system performance or compatibility.

Regular Monitoring and Testing

Effective patch management also requires continuous monitoring of vendor communications for patch releases. Once patches are identified and deployed, systems should be thoroughly tested to ensure the updates do not introduce new issues or conflicts.

Do Patching Yourself or Outsource Your Patch Management to a Trusted Team of IT Professionals?

The decision to manage patching in-house or outsource it to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) ultimately depends on the needs and capabilities of your organisation. While managing patching internally may seem cost-effective, it requires significant resources and dedicated staff to stay on top of updates and potential vulnerabilities. Outsourcing to an MSP can alleviate this burden while providing the cybersecurity expertise needed to leverage Patch Management within the scope of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Wrapping it up.

Awareness and diligence in patch management are integral components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By understanding the different types of patches and their collective impact on systems security, you can make informed decisions that safeguard your business against cyber threats. Stay abreast of the latest patch releases and prioritise a proactive approach to system maintenance. Remember, in the realm of cybersecurity, the strength of your defences is only as good as your weakest link - and an unpatched system is, indeed, a weak link.

Need some help keeping your systems patches up to date? Let us help you protect your data and workflow by providing your business with worry-free Patch Management service.

1 (Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilsayegh/2024/01/11/the-imperative-of-patching-a-resolution-for-cybersecurity-in-2024/?sh=4e62bf2e5bf0 - Accessed 2024-03-13)

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