Why is a patch management solution important for cybersecurity?

| By:
Brett Cheloff

If you own a managed service provider (MSP) business, you probably offer patch management as a service to customers. Patch management is one of the most common, standard responsibilities of MSPs, and while it may seem like a simple task, it’s a critical part of maintaining the cybersecurity of any organization. 

Patch management covers a range of different kinds of patches. Microsoft breaks these down into three categories:

  • Hotfixes: These are quick updates meant to respond to immediate issues flagged by customers, security holes, or security advisories. These hotfixes come with ratings—one through four—to indicate how critical they are to install.
  • Rollups: As the name suggests, these patches roll several hotfixes together.
  • Service Packs: Arriving in a more comprehensive, regular, and planned fashion, service packs bring together all the hotfixes since the last big service pack.  

As MSPs know, the best approach to patch management is proactive, not reactive. A patch management solution can help MSPs maintain regular, ongoing, and scheduled patching. These tools allow technicians to understand the full landscape of a customers’ devices, software, and relevant updates. 

The best patch management solutions take things a step further and include automation features, too. Technicians can spend hours on patching, repetitiously deploying updates even as other client demands pile up—a frustrating situation. By automating certain tasks, decisions, and activities, MSPs will not only save technicians time, but also ensure that nothing is missed in the process of updating devices and software. 

In this post, we’ll walk through three key reasons why patch management is important for cybersecurity, and why every MSP should have a patch management solution.

SMBs are at risk for cyberattacks

Small and mid-size businesses are just as vulnerable to cybersecurity threats as big-name organizations. Many small businesses manage valuable or sensitive information, such as medical documents, that hackers want to target for financial gain.

This is a significant—and valid—worry for SMBs. The 2020 ConnectWise State of SMB Cybersecurity report found that 77 percent of SMBs surveyed are concerned about becoming the target of a cyberattack in the next 6 months. 

Outdated or improperly configured software can offer hackers an “in” to organizations, allowing them to hold the company hostage with ransomware, install viruses, or compromise the business in other ways. A strong patch management tool helps MSPs ensure that every device and every software seat is up-to-date, supporting customers of all sizes—not just SMBs—in forming a layer of defense.

Remote work is becoming the norm

With the shift to increased remote work in 2020, many organizations have found themselves concerned about a new security perimeter for the first time. This means more remote employees, remote devices, and less secure environments for those devices—all of which add up to increased cybersecurity risk. In short, many companies are concerned about leveling up their cybersecurity during the pandemic and beyond: 79 percent of SMBs are concerned that their remote employees and devices might experience a breach, according to our latest State of SMB Cybersecurity report. 

Since patching is crucial to keeping software up-to-date, a good patch management solution is a key part of responding to increased client demand around protecting remote workers and devices. 

Cyberattacks are on the rise

Cyberattacks make headlines constantly, and they’re on the rise. A recent CNBC story noted research from several cybersecurity vendors indicating growth in ransomware, breaches, and other malicious attacks. For just ransomware alone, in July 2020 SonicWall announced that attacks had increased 20 percent around the world.

As cybercriminals look for more ways to attack companies, timely patching is becoming more important. With features such as automation, a good patch management solution will help MSPs stay on top of updates for Microsoft, Adobe, AWS, and many other software providers—closing a potential avenue for cyberattacks.

Third-party software opens up risks

While Windows and other major players routinely issue patches, MSPs often also have to contend with third-party software—such as Apple iTunes, Google Chrome, and Oracle Java— which may issue patches less frequently. And less frequent patches means more potential vulnerabilities. 

Third-party patch management is an important way to protect against cybersecurity threats. A good remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool will offer the ability to fully oversee the status of all patches, including third-party software. With a dashboard, technicians can keep a watchful eye to ensure all software stays up-to-date.

Patch management solutions for better security

Patch management is a core service for most MSPs, and it provides a fundamental benefit for customers’ cybersecurity posture. MSPs can adopt several patch management best practices to support their customers, such as:

  • Creating a patching policy that defines how and when patching occurs, why it occurs, and who in your business deploys patches
  • Establishing and following a patch management process
  • Regularly scanning for vulnerabilities
  • Using an RMM to monitor clients’ systems and automate patches

In addition, a great patch management solution can make MSP employees’ jobs much more pleasant. Rather than spending hours on tasks that could be easily automated, they’re able to balance client demands and focus on more urgent or challenging tasks. 

Businesses of all sizes are increasingly aware of cybersecurity as an issue. By ensuring that software vulnerabilities are addressed in a proactive and efficient manner, MSPs can cut off potential access points for cybersecurity threats—and keep their customers safe.