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Patching endpoints is one of the most exhausting and redundant tasks that Linux admins are burdened with, but keeping up with the latest security updates is crucial in maintaining a robust security posture. Failing to keep endpoints up-to-date with critical and recent patches that are released allows for security vulnerabilities to exist in the network that malicious hackers can use to infect endpoints and systems with harmful malware.

By automating Linux patch management admins and organizations don’t have to trade convenience for security- they can have both! Unified endpoint management and security solutions like ManageEngine Endpoint Central can automate Linux patch management and make the process simple, efficient and effective. To understand the key Linux endpoint security and management challenges that organizations face today, the importance of a robust patch management strategy, and the benefits of automating patch management, we spoke with industry leading endpoint management and security provider ManageEngine. We are now sharing these insights with our readers to help you easily improve the security of your Linux information security infrastructure.

Linux: An Increasingly Popular - and Targeted - OS

Due to Linux's universality, dependability, and adaptability, businesses continue to use it to power their digital infrastructures. Too many organizations delay or neglect patching Linux endpoints, putting their users, their key assets and their brand image at great risk. Unpatched Linux systems and services such as Apache or NGINX, as well as third-party software, make Linux systems easy targets for vulnerabilities. Due to the growing popularity of the Linux OS and the integral role it plays in powering web servers worldwide, ransomware attacks are increasingly targeting Linux endpoints via phishing and causing severe damage to valuable data. Given the current trends, the incidents of ransomware attacks are bound to increase if stricter measures are not put into place by organizations. To enhance data protection and security, third-party applications and the kernel should always be up-to-date. In addition, rotating user credentials frequently, disabling root login, and educating administrators with the latest security best practices should be prioritized.

Linux Endpoint Security & Management Has Never Been More Challenging for the Organization

CybersecSecurely and efficiently managing Linux endpoints has never been more difficult for organizations due to the heterogeneous workforce brought on by the pandemic, the frequent use of multiple Linux distros within an organization, the prevalence of unpatched third-party applications and the complexity of patching. Addressing the security needs for heterogeneous endpoints (in the organization and remote) is a challenge for admins due to the difference in time zones, bandwidth, and secure authentication modes. With a hybrid/remote work model, organizations find it difficult to strike the right balance between productivity and security. In addition, the lack of proper bandwidth in remote endpoints, the absence of secure authentication modes such as firewalls or a VPN, and the difference in geographical locations (time zones) make endpoint security an increasingly challenging affair.

Moreover, with many organizations running multiple Linux distros in the network, it can be difficult to unify and prioritize security updates. Downloading and deploying updates for the numerous third-party applications being run on the network can also be a hassle, but failure to keep these applications updated at all times can lead to exploits as severe as ransomware attacks. In absence of a unified platform that leverages automation, implementing all of the stages of patch management can be a tedious and time-consuming task. ManageEngine Digital Marketing Analyst Sylvester Jayan states, “Despite the many advantages of Linux being open-source, creating a robust patching strategy may be challenging. So, patching continues to remain a significant hurdle for many businesses.”

Organizations frequently encounter the following Linux patch management obstacles:

  • Excessive red tape: Some patches must undergo many stages of testing and clearance from various teams.
  • Lack of staff: Some organizations simply do not have the funds to establish a dedicated team, so the same staff members must juggle various responsibilities.
  • Pain in patching: Patching is repetitive and time-consuming, which can be resource-intensive.
  • Resistance from end users: End users seek convenience. The last thing they want is to have their device restarted by IT so that updates may be installed.
  • Fear of breakage: Admins are usually reluctant to apply new updates since they might cause technical glitches. They either delay patching or follow the n-1 patching method.

What Is Required to Secure Linux Endpoints Against Modern Threats?

LinuxsecSecuring Linux endpoints against today’s advanced attacks requires a defense-in-depth approach, as no single security feature or mechanism is enough to defend against sophisticated and evasive threats like ransomware and fileless malware. Organizations should prioritize the following key areas in their Linux endpoint security strategy:

  • Patch management: Patching third-party applications and the OS is crucial to keep vulnerabilities at bay and to address bugs and security flaws.
  • Reducing SSH attack surfaces: Secure Shell (SSH) access methods should be hardened in Linux endpoints via least privileged access, host-based firewalls, and so on, to prevent SSH attacks. 
  • Disabling irrelevant services: Unused or unnecessary services should be disabled via endpoint hardening to prevent the services from being enabled and leveraged by adversaries. 
  • Monitoring root accounts: In addition to securing root accounts with strong passwords and password rotation, the accounts should also be monitored and audited from time to time. 
  • Auditing sessions: Terminal sessions by users can be recorded and later played back for audits in case a security incident is reported.

Deploying a reputable unified endpoint management and security solution that addresses the above areas is an excellent way to efficiently manage and fortify Linux endpoints across an organization. However, complexity, mergers and acquisitions and pricing are major shortcomings of many solutions available today.

The majority of solutions on the market are less than intuitive and user-friendly. This leads to longer evaluation cycles and an extended learning curve that prevents admins from quickly gaining an understanding of the product. Mergers and acquisitions can also be a serious problem, as they can drastically increase the number of features a solution offers overnight. Since different solutions utilize different back-end processes and workflows, it can be challenging for these respective solutions to seamlessly talk to each other. Finally, most vendors in this space lack transparency when it comes to their pricing.

Effective Linux Patch Management Is Critical to Robust Security, Yet Too Often Overlooked

Effective Linux patch management, which is the process of detecting, downloading, testing, approving and installing new or missing patches for Linux devices within a network, is essential to maintaining a strong security posture and preventing attacks. Linux patch management entails having a centralized view on the applicable Linux patches for endpoints across a network, so that Vulnerable, Highly Vulnerable and Healthy Systems can be classified at a glance, and appropriate measures can be taken to keep the network safe from cyberattacks.

Keeping Linux endpoints up-to-date is critical, as Linux software updates include fixes to security loopholes, better hardware compatibility, improved stability, and in some cases major changes that improve the user experience overall. If you delay patching, you can miss out on all of these new features and improvements, and leave security weaknesses present that malicious hackers can use to infect your machine with malware and compromise your network.

Key Benefits of Automating Linux Patch Management 

By implementing a unified endpoint management and security solution like ManageEngine Endpoint Central that automates Linux patch management, admins and organizations can ensure that endpoints remain up-to-date with the latest Linux security patches, while conserving valuable time and resources that would otherwise go toward this tedious and ongoing task. 

Notable benefits organizations will experience by automating Linux patch management include:

  • Enhanced security: An automated patch management workflow ensures the deployment of patches to the affected endpoints with minimal delay. This is particularly important to mitigate zero-days and other critical vulnerabilities.
  • Elimination of redundancy: Patch management comprises a series of redundant steps that include downloading, testing, deployment, report generation, etc. These steps remain constant, even with varying patches. By automating patch management for Linux endpoints, the redundant steps can be negated, thus saving time and increasing business productivity.
  • Prevention of manual errors: Configuring patch management policies in large/hybrid networks includes varied configurations and policies. Repeated implementation of these policies manually can pave way for human errors to creep in - such as failing to identify/deploy critical patches, or deploying patches to the wrong endpoints which can be disastrous for the organization. With automated patch management, such errors can be prevented by regularizing these steps automatically. 

Secure Linux Endpoints Against Vulnerabilities & Attacks with ManageEngine Endpoint Central

ManageengineOne of an admin’s major tasks is to manage all the devices within a network, which often requires copious amounts of time and effort. ManageEngine Endpoint Central helps admins increase their efficiency by automating all the desktop management activities and managing heterogeneous operating systems from a single console.

Endpoint Central supports the following features to simplify Linux administration in your enterprise:

  • Asset management: Endpoint Central's asset management feature provides real-time information about the hardware and software used across the organization along with web-based inventory management.
  • Patch management: The Patch Management feature provides various options to ensure that all Linux machines on your network are up to date with critical/recent security patches and non-security updates (RedHat, Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Oracle and SUSE machines). Endpoint central offers end-to-end patch management, with 250 third-party and automated OS patches.
  • Software deployment: Endpoint Central offers 38,000+ Ubuntu and 200+ Debian predefined application templates, enabling administrators to distribute, install, update and uninstall software applications remotely as well as automatically in seconds.
  • Configurations: Execute custom scripts as configuration to perform repetitive administrative tasks at ease, install or uninstall patches and software as per convenience, and display messages to target users.
  • Remote control: Remotely access computers on LAN and WAN using Active X and HTML5 Viewer (Note: Remote control will work only if the X Window GUI component is available in agent computers.) Using one-click desktop sharing, you can remotely manage devices and perform repairs while protecting user privacy.
  • Vulnerability assessment & remediation: Perform vulnerability assessment and remediation within minutes.
  • Insightful desktop management reports: Gain access to comprehensive reports on asset details, patch management, software deployment, network inventory, Active Directory report information, and custom reports.

Jayan explains, “Endpoint Central is a great fit for IT executives who are looking to consolidate all of their endpoint management and security. Our dashboard is our single source of truth that lets you manage end-to-end IT from a single portal.” He elaborates, “Our solution is also ideal for organizations that lack IT resources and expertise. Getting up and running with Endpoint Central is possible within a few weeks even with zero technical knowledge.”

Endpoint Central Automated Linux Patch Management: An Easy & Effective Way to Stay on Top of Linux Security Updates

With ManageEngine Endpoint Central, automating Linux patch management is simpler than ever. Endpoint Central provides solutions for Linux patch management which help admins ensure that all the Linux devices on the network are up-to-date with critical and recent Linux patches that are released, and ensures that no security vulnerabilities are present in the network. Admins can automate the complete process and be certain that all of their systems are patched, resulting in zero downtime, increased productivity, compliance and the elimination of dangerous vulnerabilities - all without the time and effort that would be spent manually patching endpoints.

It should be noted that using Endpoint Central, you can patch Linux endpoints both manually and automatically. It has a streamlined patch management process to ensure that no system is left unpatched, and offers the following key features to improve Linux patch management and compliance:

  • Updated vulnerability database: Endpoint Central supports Linux patches within 24 hours of release.


  • System health policy: Discern how vulnerable your network is at a glance.


  • Disable automatic updates: Have complete control over the patches installed within your network.


  • Test & approve patches: Ensure that none of the systems within your network face downtime.


  • Schedule patch deployment: Schedule the installation of patches at off-hours.


  • Automate it completely: Automate everything in just four minutes!


  • Recurring task automation: The pre-defined Automated Patch Deployment tasks occur regularly to deploy the latest updates, thereby cutting down manual intervention and hence manual errors.


  • Patch management on the go: Install patches using Endpoint Central's mobile app.
  • Reports: View detailed patch reports and gain visibility and insights on your network and patch compliance.


Jayan elaborates, “System administrators can automatically apply updates that are missing from their network devices using Endpoint Central's Automate Patch Deployment (APD) capability, without the need for any user involvement. APDs make sure there are no delays in patch delivery. The time saved by automated patching in your company can be used to complete other, more crucial duties. Security updates, non-security updates, updates from third parties, and updates for antivirus software can all be deployed automatically.”

Endpoint Central's Automate Patch Deployment (APD) capability benefits the organization in the following ways:

  • Because fixes are easily accessible for distribution, deployments go quickly and security is tightened.
  • Following their download, all authorized patches will all be applied during the subsequent deployment window. To initiate the deployment, there is no need to wait for the subsequent APD scheduler.
  • There can be new vulnerabilities and patches that are missing whenever an endpoint goes offline and then regains network access. In the succeeding refresh cycle (the agents in the managed systems contact the server every 90 minutes), the agent is automatically inspected when it comes into touch with the server, and any missing patches are found and updated immediately. During the deployment window of the following refresh cycle, the agent deploys them. As a result, there is no need to be concerned about the agent's extended vulnerability or contact time.
  • Until the agent receives all necessary patches to meet the APD requirements, deployment will continue.

Key Takeaways

With the rise in attacks targeting Linux in recent years, effective Linux patch management has never been more critical in establishing and maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. Automating patch management can improve security and optimize efficiency by making the ongoing process of patching Linux endpoints seamless and easy. ManageEngine Endpoint Central offers unified endpoint management and security including automated Linux patch management, enabling admins and organizations to improve security and optimize time and resources simultaneously.