General

Patching: How to protect your company from cyber attacks

Phil Howie
·
August 25, 2021

How does software keep up with new features, new threats and new industry standards? How does a piece of software released five years ago still hold its own in an ever-changing industry?

This is done through patching. Vendors release patches on a fairly regular basis containing all of the necessary updates a piece of software needs to maintain its functionality, compliance and security. Any bugs or security vulnerabilities would be fixed in these patches or new features would be added along with these fixes. Vendors use patches to keep up with an ever-changing technological landscape, because something might work one week, but could be vulnerable the next.

You need to patch systems, applications and third-party libraries used in your code. Patching is a foundational security task.

In your company, there will likely be many different applications and systems from multiple vendors being used on a range of devices. This is why patch management is so important in your business. Although some software may update automatically, you must also consider downtime and systems that need patching manually. It’s important to keep track of your devices patching needs to ensure all devices have up-to-date patches released on time.

For important business systems, you will want to patch your test / QA environment first, check that the patch doesn't break anything and then roll the patch out to live production systems.

What can happen if a system is not patched for a while? Although obvious issues may not be seen, security vulnerabilities could still be present that need to be patched. Exploited vulnerabilities could act as a gateway into your company’s network. The software you’re using may not comply with industry standards if it is out of date or you could have multiple versions of software being used throughout your company, which opens a door for many other potential issues.

This entire process will need to be documented and revised regularly. Onwardly can help with this process by providing a place for your patching schedule to live, and reminders to ensure patches are kept up-to-date where possible.

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