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Keep your online shop secure - a guide to patch and update management

by maxcluster GmbH
maxcluster GmbH

We are passionate about e-commerce hosting. This passion is evident in our specialization and investment in a service with responsible and thoughtful contact persons. By consistently specializing in online shops and applications with high requirements, we can offer the highest performance and unparalleled reliability – even in peak times. For agencies and shop operators with ambitions, we make complex technologies uncomplicated to use and thus enable them to become even more successful.

Patch and update management by maxcluster

A topic that not only plays a role right before Christmas, but a particularly important one during the intense Christmas sales: IT security and the processing of sensitive information such as personal customer data.

For those operating an online store and handling sensitive information like personal customer data, prioritizing IT security is crucial. In this article, we explore how effective patch and update management contributes to minimizing security risks in applications.

Software bugs are a nearly everyday occurrence, especially in applications undergoing modifications. Small errors often slip in unnoticed during adjustments, leading to malfunctions or, at times, significant security vulnerabilities. In the worst-case scenario, unauthorized individuals may inject malicious code into the application or harvest personal data such as addresses, contacts, or credit card information. We'll discuss measures that shop operators can take to make such scenarios as unlikely as possible.

Updates, Upgrades, or Patches?

When modifications are made to software, it is generally referred to as an update. Updates often need active installation to take effect, serving various purposes, such as expanding functionality or fixing errors and issues.

Functional updates, also known as upgrades, can be categorized into minor and major versions. While minor versions involve minor functional enhancements, major versions often bring significant changes to improve user experience or performance.

Patches are typically released by providers to address problems like bugs or security vulnerabilities in software. Different types of patches are used for various purposes.

  • Bugfix: This patch type addresses technical issues and errors in the application's source code.
  • Hotfix: Time-sensitive, hotfixes aim for the quickest resolution of severe issues within the application.
  • Security Patch: Focused on closing security vulnerabilities, this patch type is essential for safeguarding the system.

Less urgent patches addressing minor errors and problems are often consolidated into small update packages, sometimes combined with functional updates. In contrast, hotfixes and critical security patches require swift action, usually released as individual installation files.

Identifying Bugs and Security Vulnerabilities

Providers must promptly address bugs and security vulnerabilities in software to fix errors before potential exploitation. To find bugs and security vulnerabilities, providers rely on various sources.

  • Software Tests: Regular security checks are mandatory for providers. Failing to regularly check software might lead to liability for damages.
  • Community: Maintaining a relationship with the software community provides a valuable information source. Software users occasionally discover discrepancies within the software.
  • Security Consultation: External security experts assess software quality using modern security standards and provide relevant recommendations.
  • Penetration Test (Pentest): Pentests examine the security of network or software system components, revealing vulnerabilities that could allow unauthorized access.
  • Bug Bounty: Running a bug bounty program can incentivize users or hackers to find and report software flaws to the provider.

Assessing the Risk of Security Vulnerabilities

Security vulnerabilities can pose varying levels of risk, affecting a few customers or a significant number. The likelihood of exploitation also varies.

Upon identifying a security vulnerability, providers conduct a risk analysis. This analysis considers the bug's size and potential impacts, analyzing affected software versions, exploit methods, likelihood of exploitation, and potential damages. It also evaluates which customers use the affected software versions.

The risk of the security vulnerability is assessed based on these criteria, usually on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is non-critical and 10 is extremely critical.

Once the provider evaluates the risk, incident management begins. This process defines how to proceed with addressing and resolving the problem, aiming to ensure developers can swiftly find a solution and provide a corresponding patch. Additionally, affected customers should receive detailed information on resolving the issue promptly.

Providers typically proactively inform affected customers once a patch is available to fix the problem. Public communication usually follows later, providing fewer details to unaffected users to avoid causing unnecessary concern. It also limits information for potential attackers to prevent exploiting the vulnerability.

Responsible for Installing Updates and Patches

Software providers regularly release new updates to enhance software functionality and security. Deploying the update for it to take effect depends on the software's licensing model and the provider's assurance.

In open-source software, the provider only provides the patch, and users must download and install it. Proprietary licensing models, as seen in SaaS software, often involve providers automatically applying the patch or allowing users to choose between automatic and manual updates. In some cases, providers may silently install minor updates in the background without notifying users.

Each variant has its pros and cons. Background updates by the provider reduce the administrator's workload on the user side. However, it often lacks transparency regarding resulting changes and their implications.

Manual installation gives users control, but they must stay informed about new updates and their requirements continually.

Informing Software Users about Security Patches

As mentioned, most providers proactively notify affected users when a security patch is available. However, users have other ways to stay informed about software updates. Many providers offer changelogs, release logs, and information about bug fixes on their websites. Some also release newsletters detailing significant software changes. Major updates are frequently announced in advance on a public roadmap.

Other information sources include community forums or relevant social media groups. However, it's essential to verify the reliability of the source and ensure the information aligns with reality.

When Is Installing a Software Update Beneficial?

In general, software applications should always be up to date. However, it's not always advisable to install the latest version of software immediately after release.

For critical security vulnerabilities or functional bugs affecting software productivity, users should update their software as quickly as possible if not done automatically by the provider. Although security patches are usually relatively small, they undergo functionality checks, often including destructive tests with incorrect data, large orders, or access to other users. Installing security patches is typically less critical in normal circumstances.

The situation differs for minor or major upgrades, which can bring significant functional adjustments. Older functions may no longer be supported, and plugins or third-party software may not integrate properly. The more complex the technological setup, the more caution is warranted.

In such cases, testing the new upgrade in a real-world environment before deploying it in live operation can be worthwhile. Additionally, users should be aware that new software versions may introduce new bugs and security vulnerabilities.

How Often Are New Updates Released?

This question varies significantly between providers. Bugfixes, hotfixes, and security patches are typically released promptly after vulnerabilities or bugs are identified to minimize security risks.

Open-source software usually has shorter support cycles, with a higher frequency of updates compared to proprietary software. This is possible because popular open-source solutions have a large community actively developing the product. Short support cycles mean users must update their software more frequently to continue benefiting from the provider's security updates.

Proprietary software, on the other hand, is supported over longer periods. However, due to smaller developer teams without a large community, updates and patches for proprietary software often take longer than for open-source software.

Successful Patching – How to Do It

Patch management, as part of technology management, contributes to ensuring the security and currency of deployed software. Similar to how the software provider creates the patch, shop operators should define a process encompassing the current state of deployed software, ongoing risk analysis, and clear responsibilities when applying patches. The following tips can help shape the process and consider all essential aspects:

  1. Status Quo Assessment: Regularly overview all software systems in productive use, including shop, PIM, or ERP systems, programming languages, web server and operating system technologies, and other tools. Keep an eye on software versions.
  2. Vulnerability Identification: Regularly analyze your software for vulnerabilities and assess how reported security issues from the provider apply to your software version, using an appropriate diagnostic tool.
  3. Risk Assessment: Being affected by a security vulnerability doesn't necessarily mean an immediate need for patching. Evaluate the risk based on various aspects to assess the urgency.
  4. Patch Testing: Before deploying the patch in your productive environment, conduct stress tests in a stage environment. This ensures the patch doesn't negatively impact your existing system, interfaces, or plugins.
  5. Patch Installation: If tests are successful, your team can start installing the patch. However, ensure backups are in place to revert to the previous state in case of issues.

What to Do When Software Is No Longer Supported

When software reaches the end of life (EOL), it is no longer officially supported by the provider. This can happen for various reasons, such as a newer successor or due to business decisions, bankruptcies, or company acquisitions.

As unsupported software no longer receives updates, its use becomes increasingly insecure over time. Migrating to another system promptly is advisable for security reasons.

Especially with open-source software, third-party support or community support may take over when the official support ends, termed Long-Term Support (LTS). This measure often provides users with the necessary time to carefully prepare for migrating to another system.


Continuous update management strengthens the security of your software ecosystem, protecting not only your data but also that of your customers. Staying informed about changes and updates for software used in the company is worthwhile.

It's not always necessary to install every security patch immediately. With a standardized process, you simplify the analysis and evaluation of potential risks, enhancing productivity in testing and installation.

Additionally, keep an eye on the ongoing development of deployed software. When a software is no longer actively supported, it's advisable to proactively search for alternatives early to eliminate potential security risks.

Have a safe, secure and successful Christmas time!

About maxcluster

We are passionate about e-commerce hosting. This passion is evident in our specialization and investment in a service with responsible and thoughtful contact persons. By consistently specializing in online shops and applications with high requirements, we can offer the highest performance and unparalleled reliability – even in peak times. For agencies and shop operators with ambitions, we make complex technologies uncomplicated to use and thus enable them to become even more successful.

maxcluster GmbH

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