Linux Patch Management Guide & 5 Best Practices

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Since the number of Linux users currently sits at over 32.8 million, it’s clear that Linux is one of the most popular operating systems on the market. If your IT team uses or services Linux servers and devices, Linux patch management should be a top priority. Secure and update all your Linux devices with this comprehensive Linux patch management guide.

How patching is done in Linux

There are multiple stages of patching, but if you want to simplify these stages for Linux devices, you can combine them into three critical steps:

1) Monitoring and scanning endpoints

2) Creating patching policies

3) Deploying patches

Just like Windows patch management, Linux patch management is the process of securing and updating the operating system. By deploying patches to all your endpoints, you can keep your Linux devices safe, secure, and up-to-date on all the latest features.

Challenges of patch management for Linux

Even the most skilled IT departments and MSPs often run into patch management problems. While you might not be able to solve all these Linux patching challenges at once, being aware of their existence is the first step that’s necessary for creating a safer, more efficient patch management process.

  • Workflow disruptions

When patching endpoints that affect large groups of people, such as Linux servers, IT teams must schedule the patch rollouts to occur during off-peak hours. By scheduling in this manner, organizations can avoid disrupting workflows with normal patching processes, such as reboots.

  • Imperfect patches

Unfortunately, patches aren’t perfect. Even the patches that undergo rigorous sandbox testing sometimes end up creating bugs that must be fixed. One way to ensure that a patch functions as it’s supposed to is to install it to a small group of your Linux devices rather than your entire IT infrastructure. If the small group has no negative effects from the update after a certain period of time, then it’s usually safe to install the patch to the rest of the Linux endpoints.

  • Volume of patches

Patching every Linux device on a network takes time, especially if an organization doesn’t use automation, and it’s complex work. While small businesses may not have a problem, large organizations and enterprises often struggle with the enormous volume of patches that must be deployed.

  • Manual mistakes

Human errors and manual mistakes happen, and other than automation, there is no way to prevent them entirely. The consequences of unpatched software are often severe, and all a cybercriminal needs to succeed is one forgotten and unpatched Linux server or endpoint.

How to patch Linux devices

The patching process for Linux devices will vary depending on the patching solution and strategies you use. For NInjaOne, you patch Linux servers and devices just like any other endpoints. Thanks to NinjaOne’s clear and intuitive user interface, you can set up and schedule automated patching policies and deployments to all your Linux devices with just a few clicks.

5 Linux patch management best practices

1) Deploy Linux patches ASAP

Although it’s tempting to put off patching for a later time, IT teams should prioritize patch management and deploy Linux patches as soon as possible. The longer you wait to deploy critical patches, the more time cybercriminals have to harm your IT environment and organization as a whole.

2) Stay up-to-date on vendor patch releases

Although your patch management software should download vendor patches automatically, it’s helpful for administrators to stay up-to-date on the latest releases. By researching the new Linux updates, administrators can learn what vulnerabilities to look out for and how to use new and updated features.

3) Mitigate patch failure risks

Thorough patch testing is an essential component of every successful patch management strategy; however, if a bug slips through the cracks, administrators should configure their patching software to alert them when patch failures occur. With these alerts in place, IT teams can either halt updates or quickly brainstorm other solutions to resolve patch failures.

4) Test and audit all Linux patches

Sadly, patches aren’t always perfect, so organizations should test and audit all Linux patches before deploying them to all their devices. One way to handle this is to create a small control group made up of Linux systems and deploy the patches only to this group. If the systems function as they should after a specific period of time, then it’s safe to deploy the patch to the rest of the systems.

5) Automate Linux patch management

There are many benefits of automated patch management that an organization receives when they leave manual patching in the past, such as increased efficiency and productivity. Automation is the best way to make Linux patch management simpler, faster, easier, and more efficient. Because of the increasing number of devices and patches vs. the decreasing number of IT staff, automated patching is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

Automate Linux patch management today

Because of today’s diverse IT environments, IT departments and MSPs need a patch management solution that supports multiple operating systems and applications. NinjaOne’s patch management solution is designed to support every IT environment, and it automates patching for Linux, Windows, and MacOS devices, as well as application patching. Automate your Linux patch management systems today with a free trial of NinjaOne.

Next Steps

Patching is the single most critical aspect of a device hardening strategy. According to Ponemon, almost 60% of breaches could be avoided through effective patching. NinjaOne makes it fast and easy to patch all your Windows, Mac, and Linux devices whether remote or on-site.
Learn more about Ninja Patch Management, check out a live tour, or start your free trial of the NinjaOne platform.

Patch all your devices automatically

Patch your Windows, Mac, and Linux devices and apps automatically.

Learn more

Too many tools in too many places?

See how tool sprawl impacts IT and what you can do to solve it.

Read the guide