What is Linux Patch Management and why is it important?

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Published: 29 June 2023

Reading time: 3 minutes

Linux has significant benefits as an operating system for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

Linux machines are highly configurable and customizable, whether they’re physical or virtualized, server or client, housed on-site or elsewhere, and use CentOS, Red Hat, Ubuntu, or another distro. They can also present significant cost savings over other operating systems (OSs) such as Windows and macOS, especially as the latter drops support for older OS versions. Plus, SMEs can bypass unnecessary hardware upgrades at a time when hardware costs are rising.

However, Linux machines are easy to misconfigure, because they lack the built-in safety controls of Windows or Mac. Patching across your entire Linux fleet is not always straightforward. This is where the value of a patch management solution comes into play.

What Is Linux Patch Management?

Linux patch management is the coordination of Linux patch scheduling, rollouts, and updates across a fleet of machines. While manual patching will suffice for a single machine, using a centralized and orchestrated approach across organizational infrastructure is the best practice for operational productivity, security, and compliance.

Like any other operating system, Linux requires regular updates to ensure it stays free from known and anticipated threats, resolves software bugs, and delivers new features.

The Consequences of Unpatched Systems

Exposure to any breach is risky for SMEs, especially those with compliance requirements or that face financial or reputational costs when they fail to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and assurance of private information.

Organizations are overwhelmed with large numbers of vulnerabilities in their infrastructure and often struggle to remediate them at scale due to a lack of integration between vulnerability management and patch management point solutions. Patch management vendors treat patches as software updates and not as content to remediate vulnerabilities, which results in IT teams manually mapping vulnerabilities to the patches required to remediate them.

The disconnection between vulnerabilities and patches reinforces a siloed approach that keeps security teams responsible for vulnerabilities from working effectively with their IT counterparts responsible for patching. This process is error-prone and can lead to unpatched vulnerabilities.

Patch management is too often specific to the operating system, leading to one set of tools and processes for Windows, one for Linux, one for Mac, and so on. The lack of consistent tools slows down the patching process further, lengthening the mean time to remediation and leading to increased risk.

An Integrated Solution for Windows and Linux

To address these challenges, Qualys is extending Patch Management to patch vulnerabilities on Linux systems. Qualys delivers a single integrated solution to automatically detect, prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities for both Microsoft and Linux devices using the same lightweight Qualys Cloud Agent. Qualys’ one platform, one agent strategy makes efficient use of resources on patching targets and provides a unified view of vulnerability and patching status in a single pane of glass.

With a single toolset covering the VM lifecycle from vulnerability to patch, security and IT teams now have a common language. With a clear mapping of vulnerabilities to patches, teams can work together and avoid delays caused by miscommunication or disagreement on required remediations, leading to faster mean time to remediation. With a common workflow for Windows and Linux patching, IT teams can efficiently patch across their heterogeneous environments.

For the many organizations that don’t have automated patching processes on Linux and currently patch manually, Qualys Patch Management lists available patches and makes it easy to create and run patch jobs and monitor their progress.

Qualys Patch Management enables efficient “mass” patching workflows for both Windows and Linux platforms, as well as patch workflows for more complex multi-tiered systems typical for Linux-based applications.

Learn how vulnerability management and IT patching teams are cooperating via a single, efficient patch workflow for Linux and Windows.

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