On average, it takes around 38 days to patch a vulnerability after its discovery, according to the Dark Reading website. However, finally getting to patch a vulnerability doesn’t necessarily mean that you have actually fulfilled optimal security. You can easily unearth flaws in patches which could expose your IT assets to security risks.
In most cases, reverting to the previous versions of your application is often wise before you actually make the ad hoc changes to the patch. What if you overwrote the previous version of the software instead of saving it? The inconvenience and the potential increase in time you might spend returning your software to the most suitable version can not only be costly but also increase the risk of a cybersecurity attack. Additionally, a simple flaw in your version control practices will still have the same effect of exposing your IT assets to security risks.
Here are a few version control best practices that you should follow to avoid the inconveniences of poor patch management:
Commit Related Changes Often
Commits should wrap related changes. For instance, fixing two bugs on your software at the same time will bring about two commits. Embracing such small commits will ensure that you make it easier for your DevOps team to understand the patch changes that you make.
It also boosts the use of your file monitor as it becomes easier to roll back to previous changes in case of any resulting inconsistencies. Such small changes also improve the efficiency of sharing code, which eliminates the chances of conflicts when it comes to mergers. On the contrary, large and rare commits will, in most cases, elevate the rates of merge conflicts.
Commit When Done
It might not be effective to have half-baked versions of your files and patches. When it comes to rolling back, getting back to these versions will mean that your DevOps team will still need to put in some work to ensure that the code you backed up actually works. However, it can be tough to start a whole patch and finish it on the same day.
Instead, you should shift to breaking down the features of your patch into logical chunks that you can easily manage to finish within a specific time frame. Remember, the earlier you commit, the better.
Test Before Committing
It can be tough to resist the temptation to commit a line of code that hasn’t been tested after a long day of work. As stated above, leaving a file version untested will mean more time to revert your software to the previous changes. Furthermore, if you commit your untested code and share it with the rest of the team, it will mean that more time will be needed to correct any flaws.
For any changes that you make to a patch or any part of your software, ensure that you test its reaction in a synthetic test environment. Although this will only showcase how the changes will behave in a perfect world, it is a step in the right direction. Furthermore, testing will eliminate common flaws and limit the number of inconsistencies that can emerge once you actually launch the changes.
Use Comprehensive Commit Messages
Commit messages to make it easier to identify what version a change is in along with providing other details to the DevOps staff. Your goal should be to generally answer the following questions in the commit message:
- What motivated you to make the changes that you made?
How do the changes differ from the previously existing ones?
You also need to agree, as a team, on how to formulate the commit message according to your own operational requirements. The best message should be comprehensive enough for any member of your team to use without having to refer to you for any questions.
Version control gives you the ability to efficiently navigate the different software changes that you make while limiting the risk of downtimes. However, optimal effectiveness will only be achieved if done in the right way. Train all your team members on standard version control policies to make change management an easier task.