Why Patch Management is Essential for Businesses

Why Patch Management is Essential for Businesses

Discover the paramount importance of patch management in fortifying a business’s invaluable data and vital systems against cyber threats.

Reading Time 5 mins

Cybersecurity threats are a constant concern for businesses of all sizes. Cybersecurity solutions like firewalls and antivirus software are important lines of defense, but another critical part of any organization’s security posture is effective patch management.

This post will explore the importance of patch management and reveal why keeping software and firmware up to date is important for protecting an organization’s data and systems. It will also explore the risk of outdated software, common ways software can be exploited by threat actors, and effective patching solutions for businesses. Finally, we’ll explore the potential and limitations of using automated patching. 

The Importance of Software Updates

Cybersecurity teams work with software developers to constantly identify and address vulnerabilities in software products through security patches. These patches are designed to fix bugs, close security holes, and improve overall system stability. Timely response to vulnerabilities is important, as even seemingly minor security vulnerabilities can be exploited by threat actors.

Imagine that there is a digital fence surrounding your data. Outdated or insecurely built software creates gaps in this fence, making it easier for attackers to infiltrate systems and steal sensitive data, like credit card information. Patch management helps to strengthen this fence, ensuring its integrity and reducing the risk of a data breach.

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Security Patches: Plugging the Holes

Security patches address specific vulnerabilities in software and firmware. These vulnerabilities can take different forms, such as coding errors or flaws in the application design. Once a vulnerability is discovered, attackers can develop exploits or malware specifically designed to target the vulnerability.  

And while generative AI still likely needs a human threat actor to review vulnerabilities it finds to build a successful exploit, in the future, AI could be used to discover and exploit vulnerabilities in software within minutes or seconds.

Here are some ways attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software.

Remote Code Execution (RCE)

Remote code execution (RCE) allows an attacker to run arbitrary code on a target system over a network, typically without the need for authentication. This can lead to complete control over the affected system, enabling the attacker to manipulate or steal data, install malware, and propagate the attack to other systems.

SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks are a type of threat where malicious SQL code is inserted into input fields of a web application. This allows attackers to exploit vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to a database or manipulate its contents.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks 

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks involve injecting malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. These scripts can execute on the victim’s browser, leading to data theft, session hijacking, or other forms of compromise.

By promptly applying security patches, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of these exploits and protect their valuable assets.

Vulnerabilities of Outdated Software 

Vulnerabilities in outdated software can lead to things like data breaches, financial loss for the organization, and disruptions and downtime.   

Data Breaches

Data breaches involve unauthorized access to sensitive information, such as personal data or trade secrets, potentially leading to identity theft, fraud, or privacy violations. 

Financial Loss

Financial loss from a data breach refers to the direct and indirect costs incurred by organizations due to a security breach, including legal fees, regulatory fines, and loss of customer trust. 

Disruptions and Downtime

Disruptions and downtime occur when systems or services become unavailable due to cyberattacks, technical failures, or other issues, resulting in productivity losses and service interruptions.  

Patching solutions for businesses are important for mitigating these risks and maintaining a strong security posture.

Patching Solutions for Businesses 

Effective patch management involves a systematic approach to identifying, deploying, and verifying the installation and function of security patches. Some key areas for an organization to focus on around patch management include using a centralized inventory, prioritization, testing, continuous monitoring, and training.

Centralized Inventory

Centralized inventory involves maintaining a comprehensive database of all devices and software used in the organization and management of the assets to ensure patches and updates are deployed.

Patch Prioritization

Prioritization of vulnerabilities involves assessing the severity and potential impact of vulnerabilities to the organization. This helps organizations determine which patches should be applied first, focusing their resources on addressing the most critical risks to the organization.

Testing and Deployment

Organizations should thoroughly test patches in a non-production environment before deploying them to live systems. This helps reduce the risk of system downtime.

Continuous Monitoring

New vulnerabilities in software arise frequently and organizations need to continuously monitor applications to reduce their overall risk.


Organizations should foster a culture of security awareness and proactive risk mitigation. One way to do this is to educate employees about the importance of keeping software updated and the risks associated with out-of-date applications.

By implementing these practices, organizations can establish a proper patch management program that significantly reduces their cyber risk profile.

Automated Patching 

Automated patching offers a solution for streamlining the patch management process.  Tools can identify available patches, schedule deployments, and verify installation. While automation offers significant benefits, such as improved efficiency and reduced human error, it also has some limitations.  Some of the challenges with automating patch management include false positives, compatibility issues, and a need for human oversight.

False Positives

Automated tools can sometimes identify non-critical updates or patches that conflict with existing software. This can waste resources that could otherwise be dedicated to fixing critical vulnerabilities.

Compatibility Issues

Patches may not be compatible with all software versions or hardware configurations, leading to system instability.

Incomplete Solutions

Automation doesn’t eliminate the need for human oversight. Testing and monitoring remain important to ensure successful patch deployment. This is especially important for custom applications.

Automated patching can be a valuable tool, but it should be implemented with careful evaluation and alongside other testing and monitoring procedures.


Proper patch management is important for businesses of all sizes. By prioritizing patch management, businesses can reduce their risk from cybersecurity threats. 

Patch management is a complex process, even when using automation, and it requires cybersecurity professionals who have skills withfinding, prioritizing, and mitigating vulnerabilities. Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity Engineering Bootcamp can help you build the skills necessary to protect organizations and manage their vulnerabilities. Learn how and why a cybersecurity bootcamp can open a door to fulfilling career opportunities that quite frequently come with high pay

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of April 30, 2024. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Ken Underhill

Ken has over 20 years of IT and cybersecurity experience and holds a graduate degree in cybersecurity. He's also the bestselling author of the book Hack the Cybersecurity Interview.

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