To keep software up-to-date and secure, software developers roll out patches to their applications from a central server on a regular basis. Because of frequent patch releases and the proliferation of software versions they generate, patch management is a crucial part of the software development lifecycle.
What Is Patch Management?
Patch management defines the process of proactively fortifying software against specific security vulnerabilities before hackers have a chance to exploit them. This process entails tracking and supervising software patch releases. Stages of patch management include:
- Identifying a bug
- Devising a code solution for the bug
- Testing the patch in a sandbox
- Approving the patch
- Documenting the patch code
- Releasing the patch to end users
- Monitoring the patch release
Patch management is important because it keeps your application secure from hackers. Developers must take care when releasing a new patch, as it may affect a device’s other applications and functions. Patches also guard against software performance issues and platform version misalignment.
Just as threats are continuously evolving, so too is patch management. The patch management market is expected to grow to a total value of just over $1 billion by 2026, with the banking and healthcare sectors anticipating the most growth.
6 Trends in Patch Management
With the help of patch management software, much of the management process is powered by automated AI. Algomox patch management service, for instance, scans for, evaluates, tests, and deploys patches across all servers and applications.
Automating patch management and associated status reporting ensures your software will never miss an update or critical security fix. Automation can save precious time for repair, given that the average amount of time it takes to fix a vulnerability is 205 days. When patch management is automated, IT administrators can focus on other business critical tasks.
Because of the long lead time to address a network vulnerability, organizations often utilize compensatory controls which serve as a triage in the meantime. However, organizations should not rely on compensatory controls as a crutch, as they are not secure over the long term.
Today’s patch management market is quite fragmented owing to vendors’ specialization in various components of patch management. Managing multiple products from different vendors gives rise to inefficiencies.
To avoid confusion and inefficiency, organizations desire a centralized server to manage patch releases, including from third parties. Doing so reduces failure, boosts productivity, saves time, and spares your organization the steep cost of improper patch management which averaged $4.24 million in 2021.
Also read: Patch Management in Cloud Technology
As companies increasingly adopt BYOD models, the resulting device sprawl gives rise to “shadow IoT” or unauthorized, unrecognized devices that are connected to your network and may not ever get updated.
BYOD makes patch management increasingly challenging to manage, opening up your organization’s network, cloud, data, and more to cyberattacks. Managing a wide range of devices impairs the visibility of new patches that software vendors release. Both JumpCloud and Qualys enable automatic patch deployment across various operating systems and applications in a dispersed, heterogeneous device ecosystem.
With the release of new software updates and subsequent monitoring for bugs, patch management fits neatly into the continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) feedback loop to remediate security issues that arise in deployments.
Policy-driven patch management
Just because patches are released does not mean that administrators apply them. In fact, 60% of breaches are a result of failure to apply available patches. Organizations learned this lesson the hard way in late 2021 when organizations failed to apply Microsoft’s patches. However, neglecting to deploy patches isn’t necessarily a matter of defiance or laziness; administrators are sometimes hesitant to deploy new patches out of fear that they will put a drag on the system, disrupt performance, or trigger other applications to misfire.
Organizations today are embracing a policy-driven patch management approach to ensure that the network owner applies patches to the system within a critical, previously determined timeframe. This approach combines operational data about system configuration with security measures to be undertaken.
Patch management is part of a comprehensive vulnerability management strategy. And, it doesn’t have to be cumbersome. Fortunately, today’s patch management software is widely embracing automation and AI in order to provide administrators greater visibility and control over their networks.
Read next: Best Patch Management & Software Tools 2022