What is patch management in cybersecurity?


In cybersecurity, patch management is how a company distributes patches: minor fixes or additional features in existing software. 

In this article, we’ll look at the common types of patch management and give you a better understanding of the concept.

What are the three types of patch management? 

While all patches have the same goal of keeping your systems safe and up-to-date, they accomplish this differently. 

The three main patches you’ll need to manage are feature updates, bug fixes, and security updates.

Feature updates

These patches aren’t deployed in response to a vulnerability; instead, they update a system to add functionality, make it faster, or keep it competitive without completely revamping the code.

Feature updates are less time-sensitive because they’re not a response to a security issue, but they’re still essential to roll out regularly, so you stay up-to-date.

Bug fixes

These patches are intended to fix system flaws.

Generally, this type of patch isn’t addressing a security vulnerability. Instead, a bug patch might be deployed to fix a persistent error message or solve a shopping cart glitch that created long wait times.

It’s important to deploy these fixes consistently to address customer issues and keep their online experience smooth.

Security patches

Perhaps the most critical type, security patches, address areas where hackers could access your systems.

These patches are essential to deploy as quickly as possible before a bad actor discovers the exploit and takes advantage of it.

What is the patch management life cycle?

To stay up-to-date with your patch management, it’s important to follow a basic process for rolling out new updates and fixes. Here are the most common steps you’ll want to take:

Step 1: Evaluate systems

You shouldn’t just check your system for errors after discovering a hacker gained access.

Be proactive about frequently conducting audits. Put a schedule in place to ensure that certain aspects don’t get overlooked.

Step 2: Find or create a patch

Once you’ve evaluated your systems and identified any vulnerabilities, you need to have a process to fix them. 

For some errors, you might be able to acquire a patch that someone’s already created. For other types of issues, you’ll need to develop a specialized solution (or find someone who can).

Step 3: Test the patch

Whether you’ve developed the solution in-house or acquired one from somewhere else, you need to test the patch before deploying it.

Review everything carefully to ensure the patch works as intended and doesn’t have additional bugs or vulnerabilities!

Step 3: Deployment

It’s time to roll out your fix! 

It can be best to roll everything out together for less time-sensitive things like feature updates and minor bug fixes rather than deploying them one by one. 

However, if you’re patching a security issue or significant bug, you shouldn’t wait: deploy it as soon as it’s ready!

Step 4: Evaluate systems

At this point, you’re back to the first step of the patch management cycle—you’ll want to review the patches you deployed, check for vulnerabilities, and get ready to start the process over again.

The difference between patch management and vulnerability management

When researching patch management in cybersecurity, it can be easy to confuse this strategy with a similar concept: vulnerability management. 

While both types of management matter for your business, they’re not the same thing.

Patch management has a narrow scope: it’s focused on identifying software issues and deploying targeted fixes. While patch management often deals with security issues, it also focuses on minor bugs and even feature updates.

On the other hand, vulnerability management is a broad term that refers to risk assessment and mitigation. Unlike patch management, vulnerability management isn’t going to work on feature updates; instead, it’s focused on keeping every aspect of a company secure. 

Applying patches and updates regularly

How often should you apply patches and perform updates? 

The easiest way to keep up with frequent patch deployment is to use an automated system to keep track of your timelines.

However, if you want to do your patching manually, you should run scans at least monthly. 

Depending on what systems you’re using and your capabilities, you should aim to deploy patches quarterly or monthly. 

To recap, patch management in cybersecurity is the routine monitoring of systems and deployment of patches to address bugs, updates, and security flaws.

Patch management is essential to keep your website and systems running smoothly, deter hackers, and stay updated.

While it can be challenging to manage everything yourself, you don’t have to shoulder the entire burden. 

Expedient Technology Solutions can help you create a workable patch management solution tailored to your needs.

Ready to get started? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.