Patch Management in Cloud Technology

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Between bugs in the code, security vulnerabilities, and general updates, modern software is often upgraded or maintained with patches to ensure it functions as it should.

The now increasingly disaggregated world of cloud-native technology and its interwoven neural connections, formed by application programming interfaces (APIs) and the orchestration layers that harmonize in between, often need to benefit from patch management.

Why Do We Patch Software?

At its core, patch management is the application of additional code to existing software deployments to upgrade; update; fix vulnerabilities; or remediate against incompatibilities, performance bottlenecks, platform version alignment, or some other substrate-level change. 

Patching can occur at the application level, the operating system level, the networking level, its connection to API conduits, or some combination of all of the above.

Patches can occur for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes they are executed for reasons relating to performance, functionality, regulatory compliance, system health, and security or as part of a deeper strategic step in a more complex software lifecycle management schedule. However, some patches are simply installed due to user requests for functionality and useability. 

Also read: Establishing Server Security Best Practices

Use Case: JumpCloud Patches SME Space

JumpCloud, based in Louisville, Colorado, is among the firms now putting their patch prowess forward as a core competency and competitive differentiator. Keen to make sure that IT administrators can minimize vulnerabilities by having increased visibility and control over their remote device fleet, the company has announced the addition of JumpCloud Patch Management to its cloud directory platform.

Focused on the small-to-midsize enterprise (SME) segment of the market, this service gives IT administrators the power to create schedules, report on operating system patches and versions, and see patch versions across their remote fleet. It can manage both Mac and Windows updates and patches from the JumpCloud console.

“We all know that users don’t update their devices with bug fixes or security patches with any regularity or discipline,” said Greg Armanini, senior director of product management at JumpCloud. “This creates huge security gaps for every organization, especially those that are distributed, which is almost every organization today.”

The core advancement offers robust patch management update functionality as part of a directory platform, which further centralizes user identity and device management. SME IT teams are likely conscious of their admin’s time and money, so they may find it appealing to eliminate the stress and potential vulnerabilities of having to work with multiple vendors.

“The practice of patch management is a critical pillar of cyber defense, yet many organizations still struggle with patching in a remote or hybrid work environment,” said Armanini and team. “This is due to the lack of visibility into user devices, the frequency of new patches introduced by software vendors, and the need to leverage multiple solutions and complicated workflows to manage patching across multiple operating systems (OS).”

NTT Application Security researchers recently found the average time to fix critical vulnerabilities is 205 days. Further, some 60% of breached organizations reported breaches were due to a vulnerability for which a patch was already available, but not deployed throughout the organization’s systems and devices.

JumpCloud gives administrators a single cloud directory platform to secure users in heterogeneous device environments. The first release of JumpCloud Patch Management focuses on OS-level patching for Mac and Windows, with Linux, browser, and application patching coming soon. 

A Variety of IT Stacks, Workloads, and Data

Given the variety of technology stacks, workloads, and data estates that exist, it is perhaps no surprise to see different technology vendors aligning themselves to serve different areas of the patch management market.

With a specialization in cloud system security, compliance, and deep competencies in cloud misconfigurations detection and remediation, Qualys knows a thing or two about minimizing vulnerability risks. The California-based firm has now added advanced remediation to its Qualys Patch Management. 

The technology proposition promises that organizations will now be able to use one application to comprehensively remediate vulnerabilities regardless of whether they need configuration changes or deployment of scripts and proprietary software patches. The application hopes to improve efficiency by eliminating the need to use multiple products and agents.

Timely and comprehensive remediation of vulnerabilities is of course critical for maintaining good security hygiene and proactive risk management. Yet, organizations struggle to remediate quickly due to multiple factors including ambiguity between IT and security on process ownership, especially when the action requires sophistication beyond the deployment of a simple patch. 

Also read: Best Network Security Software & Tools of 2021

Detection Logic vs. Remediation Complexity 

The lack of clarity between vulnerability detection logic and potential remediation complexity, due to the need for multiple tools, increases the struggle IT and security teams face. For example, to remediate the Spectre/Meltdown vulnerability, a configuration change is required in addition to deploying the patch. Further, some vulnerabilities need a registry key change without a patch, while others need a proprietary patch to remediate.

“In this Log4Shell and Pwnkit era, organizations need to be extra vigilant and so be able to patch weaponized vulnerabilities without delay,” said Sumedh Thakar, president and CEO of Qualys. “This requires efficiency and rapid remediation that many organizations find daunting due mainly to complex processes and the need for several different tools.”

According to Thakar, Qualys Advanced Remediation increases efficiency by using one application to comprehensively remediate vulnerabilities. This, he says, eliminates the need to use multiple products and agents to improve response times, which is a critical success factor in strengthening any size of enterprises’ cyber defenses.

Qualys Patch Management integrates with Qualys Vulnerability Management, Detection, and Response (VMDR) to remediate vulnerabilities by deploying patches or applying configuration changes on any device regardless of its location. The new remediation feature allows teams to use one application to detect, prioritize, and fix vulnerabilities regardless of the remediation method required.

Patching as a Core Process

The practice of patch management now forms an increasingly pressing process of the modern nature of cloud networks and their necessary device management. Regardless of whatever method you choose, patch management will continue to be a core process in maintaining cloud networks.

Read next: Taking the Unified Threat Management Approach to Network Security

Adrian Bridgwater
Adrian Bridgwater
Adrian Bridgwater is a technology journalist with three decades of press experience. Primarily he works as a news analysis writer dedicated to a software application development ‘beat’; but, in a fluid media world, he is also an analyst, technology evangelist, and content consultant. As the previously narrow discipline of programming now extends across a wider transept of the enterprise IT landscape, his own editorial purview has also broadened. He has spent much of the last 10 years also focusing on open source, data analytics and intelligence, cloud computing, mobile devices, and data management.

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