Patch management is a key part of any small business’s cybersecurity plan. As such, it requires its own policies to ensure your systems are always up to date. For those small business owners who do it all and find the term “patch management” mildly confusing, just remember that it is the process of managing the patches, which are just updates for your software.
What You Need to Know About Patch Management
What Patches Do
To better understand how to implement your patch management strategy for your small business, take a minute to refresh your memory of their importance. Patches are there to protect your software and system from malware applications. Yes, there are seemingly endless updates for your software, but this is because the manufacturers and developers keep making changes to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals.
If you do not install the latest patch (or update), then you leave your system vulnerable to malware and hackers. Hackers know that not everyone wants to bother with an update and will just put it off since they do not want to waste time. Hackers hope to take advantage of users and companies that are still unprotected against a recent attack method.
Opt for Automatic Updates
If your software offers the ability to enable automatic updates, take advantage of this. With automatic updates in place, there is no reason to put off a patch. You will likely not even have the option to do so. With this system in place, you don’t have to worry about employees delaying the patch endlessly. You also will not have to worry about constantly checking for new patches since the automatic updates should detect them.
Know Your Software and Check for Patches Weekly
While enabling automatic updates should let your software routinely find if there are patches that you need to install, this is not always foolproof. There is always the potential for error, particularly if the update requires a restart and, therefore, user permission, which is common. You can avoid this issue by making a master list of all the software your small business uses and checking it once a week for updates. Assign this task to a specific employee, such as your IT specialist. Every week, have them go through the list and visit each manufacturer’s website to confirm the latest version of the software is installed.
Depending on the size of your small business, both in terms of software used and employees, the idea of one person dedicating an hour or more each week to checking for patches might be unrealistic. In this case, take the time to prioritize your list and determine which software must be patched weekly. See if you can perhaps check for patches on some of the less-important software every other week instead, and then schedule them to alternate weeks. However, check all software for patches weekly if at all possible. Many software developers actually have specific patch schedules of when they release their security patches, so being aware of these can help you maximize your time.
Whenever possible, take advantage of multiple patches offered together as software updates or service packs. This will streamline the process, taking less time from your employee’s other tasks.
Always Patch All Devices
You need to keep in mind that installing the update on a single device will not do anything if the other devices on the network have not received the patch. It can be smart to install the patch on a single device to confirm it does not harm functionality. Once you are sure that the patch does not have any negative effects, make sure to install it on all relevant devices using the software. This is particularly important if you or one of your small business’s employees remotely access the network to work from home.
Make Exceptions Only with Precautions
Sometimes, you might need to make an exception for patching and will be unable to complete a specific patch on a particular system. If this becomes necessary, do not leave it at that. Put precautions in place to prevent security threats related to the lack of updates, such as locking down the user permissions and removing direct internet access.
Research Patch Options Before Buying Devices
When creating the patch strategy for your small business, take the time to evaluate any potential new devices and software to confirm they fit within this plan before you make a purchase. Talk to the salespeople to ensure that you understand how the device or software handles patches. This way, you can ensure that it is feasible to manage the patches for your new device beforehand. This will save you a great deal of time spent trying to keep its software up to date. Ideally, you should opt for software and devices that automate patch updates. If this is not possible, at least ensure the process of patching is simple and requires minimal resources.
Consider Cyber Insurance as a Backup
Even with a patch management strategy and the latest versions of your software, it is possible for hackers to slip through the cracks every once in a while. The risk becomes even greater if you are unable to install a patch immediately for some reason. Cyber insurance can give you peace of mind by assisting if cybercriminals do find a way into your system. Cyber insurance can help you recover from the damage caused by hackers or even minimize it. Discover the benefits of a cyber insurance policy.
Patches are necessary to ensure that your small business is using the latest version of your software programs, which includes the most recent security measures. Because of this, patch management will be a line of defense between your company’s important information and would-be hackers. With the proper patch strategy in place, your IT person will not feel overwhelmed by updates and your company will be a bit more secure.