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Patch Management Policy


Approved Date – 02/22/2021
Published Date – 02/22/2021
Revised Date – 05/25/2021

1. Purpose

To ensure computer systems attached to the District of Columbia Government (“District”) information network is updated accurately and timely with security protection mechanisms (patches) for known vulnerabilities and exploits.

2. Authority

DC Official Code § 1-1401 et seq., provides the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (“OCTO”) with the authority to provide information technology (IT) services, write and enforce IT policies, and secure the network and IT systems for the District government. This document can be found at: https://code.dccouncil.us/dc/council/code/sections/1-1402.html.

3. Applicability

This policy applies to all the District’s workforce members performing official functions on behalf of the District’s government, and/or any District agency/entity that receives enterprise services from the OCTO. In addition, this policy applies to any providers and third-party entities with access to the District’s information, networks, and applications. 

4. Policy

All devices connected to the District’s network, either owned by the District, the District Workforce Member, or those in the process of being developed and supported by third parties, must be protected from known vulnerabilities, by installing applicable vendor-supplied security patches. The District must ensure the installation of necessary security patches by:

4.1.    Frequently checking the network health status

4.1.1    Identify missing patches, computer vulnerabilities due to missing patches, failed patches, etc.
4.1.2    Maintain an inventory of production systems, types of OSes, roaming computers, remote office machines under IP scope management, etc.
4.1.3    Manage 'bring your own device'(BYOD) components, including laptops used for work that aren't company-owned.
4.1.4    When new computers are added to your network, make sure they're covered under automated patching.
4.1.5    Be aware of certain patches that shouldn't be deployed in your network because they can prevent other components from operating efficiently, some versions of Java, for example.

4.2.    Evaluating Patches in a test environment before distributing

The test environment should mirror the network, containing the same types of Operating Systems and applications used in production. Testing patches before deployment ensures they're stable for deployment. After successful deployment to the test machines, this process is replicable for the whole enterprise.

4.3.    Developing a Patch Management Program that ensures that Systems, Utilities, and Applications are regularly patched

4.3.1    A regular schedule shall be developed for security patching of all the District systems and devices.   
4.3.2    Patching shall include updates to all operating systems, including office productivity software, database software, and third-party applications (e.g. Flash, Java, etc.), under the direction of OCTO management.  
4.3.3    Where vendors have automated patching procedures for their applications, automatic updates must be enabled on the systems for such applications.
4.3.4    OCTO makes use of appropriate patch management software or tools to support the patching process across many different platforms and devices. Agencies whose devices are not supported by OCTO are encouraged to adopt the tool approved by OCTO.
4.3.5    OCTO performs regular reviews of the application of critical security patches as part of the agency’s change management and audit functions.

4.4.    Device types

4.4.1    Workstations (Stationary and Mobile): Desktops and laptops must have automatic updates enabled for operating system patches. Any exception to the policy must be documented and forwarded to OCTO for review.  
4.4.2    Servers: Servers must be regularly updated with the latest service packs, hotfixes, and patches required to ensure the security of the asset and the data that resides on the system, except for cases where the deployment of such patches will obstruct the normal operation of Applications hosted on the server. Any exception to the policy must be documented and forwarded to the Office of the CISO and OCTO for review.
4.4.3    Third-Party Supplied and Managed Devices: All IT devices being supplied and managed by Third Parties must have up-to-date security patches before going operational. Third Parties must provide evidence of up-to-date patching before the devices are accepted into service and become operational.  

4.5. Generate detailed patch summary reports

IT reports are important for security auditing. Patch deployment summary reports can be generated, which are essential in risk assessment and helps ensure vulnerabilities are addressed.
 
4.6.  Patching exception

Patches on production systems (e.g. servers and enterprise applications) may require complex testing and installation procedures.  In certain cases, risk mitigation rather than patching may be preferable.  The risk mitigation alternative selected should be determined through a risk assessment process.  Reasons for any departure from the above standard and alternative protection measures taken shall be documented in writing for devices storing non-public data.  Deviations from normal patch schedules shall require the approval of the District’s CISO.

5. Exemption

Exceptions to this policy shall be requested in writing to the Agency’s CIO and the request will be escalated to the OCTO Chief Information Security Officer (“CISO”) for approval.

6. Definitions

The definition of the terms used in this document can be found in the Policy Definitions website.