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How are vulnerability management and patch management different?

In today’s digitally connected world, organisations are facing an attack surface that increases every year. In the past, organisations protected their assets on-premises, but today a variety of technologies are used that extend well beyond the enterprise’s perimeter.

With rising numbers of businesses adopting remote and hybrid work models, cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent and severe, so it is vital for IT teams to know what risks their companies face and how to address them effectively.  

However, securing enterprise assets, particularly operating systems and applications, is a continuous process rather than a one-time event. Businesses must continuously monitor and deploy security patches to protect the company’s many entry points from hackers. Vulnerability and patch management are crucial to a company’s security and continuity. 

Are vulnerability management and patch management the same thing?

Although patch management and vulnerability management are compatible, they are distinct processes with the same goal. Patch management deals with applying software updates to fix specific bugs or expand the application’s feature set. Vulnerability management, on the other hand, addresses all kinds of risks, including discovering and eliminating them. 

What is vulnerability management?

In every network and system, there is the potential for vulnerabilities which could be exploited by threat actors.This can spell disaster for organisations, particularly if the breach hasn’t been noticed for some time. Vulnerability management is a cyclic process of discovering, prioritising, reporting, and remediating these issues. When vulnerability management is used in conjunction with other security measures, it can help organisations identify possible threats and minimise their attack surface, and reduce the risk of damage.

Vulnerability management solutions can help organisations automate and streamline this process, which must be continuously carried out to keep up with new applications on the network, system modifications, and new security threats over time. Business operations and threat intelligence are largely utilised in these tools to quickly address vulnerabilities. 

Vulnerability management tools largely include the following processes: 


The first phase of discovery is a vulnerability assessment of all IT infrastructure devices, including servers, laptops, printers, screens, and backup devices. All devices that might be connected to a corporate network are included, as well as the software that runs on them. Any unpatched hardware can introduce gaps in the security framework. 


Once you’ve gathered a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the IT infrastructure, as well as the hardware devices and software connected to the corporate network, the reporting phase begins. This report should be simple to read, accessible, and referenceable, listing the systems most at risk. The vulnerability of systems, for example, might be assessed on the basis of the severity of unpatched vulnerabilities.

This process can be automated using security software, which allows for reports based on the outcome of independent network scans. Reporting is part of the next step, prioritisation, and some vulnerability management programs include them as part of the same phase. 


Prioritisation is the most significant phase of vulnerability management. The order in which you decide to tackle vulnerabilities in your network is determined here. Your prioritisation will be based on a variety of factors, but the most important considerations are how severe the risk is, long it will take to repair, and how much it will cost. Your individual business circumstances may influence the priority placed on vulnerabilities and the urgency of fixes.  


After determining what vulnerabilities your network has and in what order you will address them, the last step is to respond to them. In some cases, this step might be as simple as applying any required infrastructure patches or reconfiguring a vulnerable network device. Other interventions may be more time-consuming or costly, such as creating a patch for your application or replacing a device that is no longer supported by the manufacturer. 

After you finish the response phase, the process repeats, with further discovery to determine the status of your network after your efforts to safeguard it. 

What is patch management?

A company’s patch management process involves updating all of its software to the latest version released by the manufacturer, which fixes any bugs found post-release. Servers and databases are just two examples of enterprise-level products that require patch management. 

The patch management process is how IT teams logically update applications and operating systems. The patch management process focuses on highlighting, categorising, and prioritising any missing patches for a specific asset. Vendors provide patch updates in the form of software updates. Applying patches promptly is critically important, as over 90% of vulnerabilities are exploited after a patch has been released. 

Patch management can be accomplished using dedicated patch management software, which allows IT teams to set policy-based rules for the automatic application of patches. Patch applications may be scheduled around business hours in order to minimise downtime and employee productivity. 

Patch management vs vulnerability management 

While patch management and vulnerability management overlap, they are distinct processes in their own right. Vulnerability management involves finding and treating all kinds of security issues, including software and operating system vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management identifies risks and prioritises them based on the severity of the consequences, whereas patch management assists in remediating risks by upgrading software to the most recent version.

Patch management may include anything from security fixes to new software features, and as some patches don’t address security flaws that may be identified by vulnerability management, it is wise not to rely on patch management software alone to safeguard your enterprise’s IT environment. 

Secure your IT infrastructure with the experts

Vulnerability and patch management are crucial components of your business cybersecurity strategy. The managed security experts at INTELLIWORX can implement robust vulnerability and patch management processes and ensure your business systems and networks are continuously monitored and protected against unknown threats. Contact the security team at INTELLIWORX today

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