A security patch is a program that fixes a problem when a vulnerability is discovered in a software product. By retrofitting existing programs, security vulnerabilities are addressed. Attacks that exploit server vulnerabilities are one of the factors that lead to system failures and security accidents. To protect your system and data from these attacks, you need to apply security patches provided by software product developers. However, it takes time and effort to always take thorough security measures against multiple software, so there are many cases where the system is operated with vulnerabilities remaining.
In this article, we’ll show you the role of security patches, why you need to manage them, and how to make patch management easier.
What is a “security patch”?
The name security patch is derived from a piece of cloth (patch, patch) that is applied to a hole in clothes, and is sometimes referred to as “patching a program.”
Security patches are generally downloaded and distributed free of charge through the developer’s website, and if the number of security patches is large, they may be provided together. Also known as a “hotfix”.
There is no perfect program created by humans. Even very popular operating systems such as Windows and Mac have some sort of released product, as evidenced by the release of security patches that fix program vulnerabilities if they are found. It is not uncommon for problems to be discovered.
In such cases, the software product developer creates and distributes security patches. Users can apply security patches to their programs to avoid the danger of attacks targeting vulnerabilities.
Why you should manage security patches
It does not mean that you can download the security patch and apply it to the product.
This is because it depends greatly on the security literacy of the person applying the security patch.
Engineers with a high level of security awareness and experience are considered to be aware of the risks of not applying patches and the risks of problems associated with applying them.
However, if you are an inexperienced engineer, even if you know the need to apply patches, you may not be aware of the patch application order and application history management.
In the case of Windows servers, applying security patches often causes problems, so there are still many engineers who try to cover operations without applying patches as much as possible. However, there are still many attacks targeting servers that have not been patched to resolve the vulnerability.
Assuming that security patches cannot be applied for some reason, it is necessary to check what vulnerabilities are in your software product and what patches are distributed.
Operational cycle and challenges of security patch management
Security patches for various software products exist in the server OS and are released as soon as vulnerabilities are discovered, so the release time is also different.
Moreover, if you do not know the order and version of the security patches to apply, the system may malfunction after application.
As a result, security patches need to be managed in detail, which at the same time increases the burden on the server administrator.
When applying a security patch, it is recommended that you make a plan to reflect the security patch based on the information published by each vendor. How about thinking about the following operation cycle?
(1) Confirmation of vulnerability information
Check the information published on the Internet regarding the vulnerability of the relevant software product. When a security patch is distributed by a vendor, detailed information about the vulnerabilities in the software will be disclosed. It’s a good idea to always check for the latest information.
(2) Understand the status of the presence or absence of vulnerabilities
Know if your software product is vulnerable. Depending on the software version, it may or may not be vulnerable. Older versions are generally considered to be more vulnerable. However, as a result of the version upgrade, security holes that did not exist in the old version may be discovered, so you should always check for the latest information.
(3) Obtaining the latest security patch
If you decide that you need to apply a security patch, the next step is to get the latest security patch. The usual way to apply is to download it from the Internet and apply a security patch. At this time, if multiple patches need to be applied to one software product, information on the order of application may also be provided.
(4) Create a security patch application schedule
Create a schedule based on the pickup of the software product to which the security patch is applied, the type and version of the patch, the order of application, and so on.
When applying patches to a running system, it is safer to stop the system. Not only does the time vary depending on the number and content of patches to be applied, but it also takes time to check that there are no problems with the system.
Furthermore, if you have a system for development separate from the system in operation, first carry out (5) to (6) for development, confirm that there is no problem, and then adapt to the system in operation. It’s a good idea to create a schedule.
(5) Implementation of security patch application
We will notify and apply security patches according to the created schedule. Always check the implementation status. If you leave it unattended, it will take time and effort to investigate a huge log when a problem occurs during the application.
(6) Confirmation after application
Check if there are any new problems after applying the security patch. This is because applying security patches can cause system malfunctions. When creating a patch application schedule, it is recommended that you also decide what to check and how to check the operating system.
(1)-(6) are examples of operation cycles. If the operation cycle of security patches is defined in this way, it will be easier to manage the schedule for applying patches.
How to simplify security patch management
Security patch management is necessary, but frequent patch releases can complicate management.
Therefore, if possible, we would like to reduce man-hours by simplifying management by manpower.
Use patch management tools
The patch management tool may have different tool selection criteria depending on the scale of the system to be managed. For large systems, it is not practical to manually apply security patches to each server. A tool that automatically detects vulnerabilities in servers connected to your network and lists the required patches would be desirable.
“Application virtualization” technology
In addition, “application virtualization” technology can reduce the management man-hours for security patch management.
“Desktop virtualization” connects to a virtual OS on the cloud and displays the desktop screen, but application virtualization technology displays only the application screen on the computer instead of the desktop screen.
When applying security patches to PCs used by employees in a company, by updating the application on the server and publishing a new one, all PCs connected to the server can use the application with the vulnerabilities resolved. I can do it.
By utilizing this application virtualization technology, it is possible to reduce the management man-hours without managing the patches of each personal computer.
In this article, what are security patches? After introducing, I introduced the necessity of patch management and how to make patch management easier.
It’s not just a matter of applying security patches, it’s also important to manage them well.
By implementing application virtualization, you can easily manage security patches, so you may consider introducing them.