Don't Overlook Azure Patch Management: Safeguarding Your Cloud Infrastructure

Although Azure patch management may not be the most exciting topic, it is a critical aspect of maintaining the security and stability of cloud infrastructure. If you don't have regular housekeeping processes for your cloud deployments then you are leaving vulnerabilities unaddressed. It is important to realise that this can create larger and larger problems over time.

Often there is a perception that this is done automatically in the cloud or it has been disabled for availability reasons to avoid downtime. Either way this needs to be addressed and addressed regularly, ideally in an automated fashion. 

Cloud security is becoming more and more complex and the time from discovery to exploration is becoming shorter and shorter. To react to this Microsoft Azure offers a range of security features and cloud management software like CloudOps extends this with regular audits and application-level penetration testing.

One of the critical steps in securing your Azure environment is patch management which we will discuss in more detail in this article. 


What is Azure Patch Management?

Azure Patch Management encompasses the processes for updating the software and operating systems within your Azure environment.

For your Azure infrastructure, this usually means patching at the operating system level or its components for virtual machines at a pre-defined time. For Azure services, this can mean allowing a window or using the settings to Allow updates to be deployed on things like app pools or hosted databases.

Why is Azure Patch Management Important?

Effective patch management is a vital process for securing your cloud infrastructure. Neglecting this aspect exposes your cloud environment to potential security risks, leading to data breaches, loss, and downtime. Regularly applying updates and patches is essential to guarantee the security and optimal performance of your cloud environment.

In the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity threats, attackers continually seek new vulnerabilities to exploit. Microsoft consistently issues updates and patches to address discovered security issues. Failure to apply these patches leaves your environment susceptible to known vulnerabilities, presenting an avoidable risk.

The Importance of Timely Patch Management

It is important not to think of Azure patching as a one-off process. It's ongoing and it requires a level of attention to keep up to date with anything that is going to have an impact on your operations. Think of it as plugging potential holes in your defences as quickly as possible 

Patching your Azure environment is not a one-time task. It's an ongoing process that requires constant attention. Timely patch management is critical to ensuring the security of your Azure environment. The longer you delay installing updates and patches, the longer you're leaving your environment vulnerable to attacks. It's essential to apply updates as soon as possible to ensure that your environment is secure and running optimally.

The process can be challenging because it requires coordination and testing across multiple applications and systems. However, it's essential to make sure that patches are tested and deployed as quickly as possible. Delaying patch management can lead to significant risks to your cloud environment, and this can impact your business operations. Also for some critical patches the cloud providers will force them onto your VMs by applying them and rebooting, this process is used rarely but keeps you up to date and secure for critical security holes. 

The Risks of Ignoring Azure Patch Management

Ignoring patch management can have serious consequences for your Azure environment. You are allowing the gap between the latest security fixes/settings to widen. When one of these gaps is inevitably exploited and a wave of ransomware or phishing or spoofing sweeps the internet then you could be caught up in it. 

Bottom line the longer you delay installing patches, the greater the risk of exploitation of known vulnerabilities.

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Beyond the security risks, overlooking patch management can result in downtime and adversely affect the performance of your Azure environment. Patches and updates frequently encompass bug fixes and performance enhancements that contribute to the stability and speed of your environment. Postponing these updates may result in suboptimal performance and decreased efficiency.

Best Practices for Azure Patch Management

To ensure that your Azure environment is secure and running optimally, it's essential to follow best practices for patch management.

Here are some key steps to get started:

  1. Plan for patch management: Create a patch management plan/process that outlines how you will manage and deploy updates to your Azure environment.
  2. Use automation tools: cloud management tools can help you streamline the patch management process and make it more efficient. CloudOps can help you manage patching for Windows and Linux servers in Azure.
  3. Test patches before deployment: Before deploying patches, test them in a staging environment to ensure that they won't cause any issues in your production environment. This step is especially important for DevOps teams
  4. Monitor for new patches: Keep an eye out for new patches and updates released by Microsoft, and make sure they are added to your backlog of patches for testing / applying.
  5. Prioritise critical patches: Some patches may be more critical than others, depending on the security risks they address. Make sure to prioritise critical patches and have an exception process for anything really important.

As part of our cloud management platform, it is possible to automate this whole process and make sure your infrastructure is patched on a regular cycle.

What can I do next?

Azure patch management is a critical aspect of securing your cloud infrastructure.

With the right approach & support, you can ensure that your environment is always kept up to date and that patches are applied. The patching module in CloudOps ensures that patches are applied and you can see when the patching window you select will run.

This provides monthly automated deployment of patches for your VMs for both windows and Linux.

  • Windows: Receive Critical, security and definition updates
  • Linux: Receive software and security updates

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