ASD's Blueprint for Secure Cloud

Windows Update and Patching

This section describes the design decisions associated with updates and patching on Windows 10 and 11 endpoints configured according to guidance in ASD's Blueprint for Secure Cloud.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Many updates released for operating systems and application contain bug fixes and security updates. Vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious code or hackers and need to be patched as soon as possible.

A risk assessment of a vulnerability is essential in determining the time-frame for applying patches. There are many different sources and indicators that will help with this assessment, for example if the vendor releases a patch outside of their normal patching cycle and its marked as a critical update then it is worth immediate investigation and deployment to see how it could affect organisation.

It is vital to have a robust and reliable patch management solution based on industry best practices.

For Microsoft Windows environments the primary patching technologies are:

  • Windows Server Update Service – WSUS enables administrators to deploy the most recent Microsoft updates. A WSUS server connects directly to Microsoft Update or an “upstream” WSUS server. This enables administrators to control what updates are applied and when, rather than having every computer on the network going to the Internet and installing every available update immediately.
  • Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (MECM) – MECM integrates with a WSUS server to deliver patch management. WSUS obtains updates from the internet and MECM is used to approve and deploy the updates. Using MECM to deploy software updates enables more control over many aspects of the process such as targeting, maintenance windows, scheduling, and reporting.
  • Microsoft Intune – Windows Update for Business provides management policies for several types of updates to Windows devices.
    • Feature updates: feature updates contain security and quality revisions, significant feature additions and changes; they are released semi-annually in March and September.
    • Quality updates: these are traditional operating system updates, typically released the second Tuesday of each month (though they can be released at any time). These include security, critical, and driver updates. Windows Update for Business also treats non-Windows updates (such as those for Microsoft Office or Visual Studio) as quality updates. These non-Windows Updates are known as “Microsoft updates” and can configure devices to receive or not receive such updates along with their Windows updates.
    • Driver updates: these are non-Microsoft drivers that are applicable to the devices. Driver updates can be turned off by using Windows Update for Business policies.
    • Microsoft product updates: these are updates for other Microsoft products, such as Office. These updates can be enabled or disabled by using Windows Update for Business policy.

Update rings are policies that are assigned to groups of devices. Intune can define update rings that specify how and when service updates are deployed to Windows devices. By using update rings, it is possible to create an update strategy that mirrors business needs.

To deploy patches to endpoints as quickly as possible, client-side settings should not restrict or delay the installation of patches where it does not interfere with critical operation or cause loss of data due to unexpected reboots.

Security & Governance

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Design

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References

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Do you have a suggestion on how the above page could be improved? Get in touch! ASD's Blueprint for Secure Cloud is an open source project, and we would love to get your input. Submit an issue on our GitHub, or send us an email at blueprint@asd.gov.au

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Acknowledgement of Country
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connections to land, sea and communities. We pay our respects to them, their cultures and their Elders; past, present and emerging. We also recognise Australia's First Peoples' enduring contribution to Australia's national security.

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