Keeping your systems up to date with the latest security patches is crucial for maintaining a secure environment. However, manually applying patches to multiple systems can be time-consuming and error-prone. In this tutorial, we will explore how to automate security patching using Ansible, a popular open-source IT automation tool.

What is Ansible?

Ansible is an open-source automation tool that allows you to automate tasks such as configuration management, application deployment, and security patching. It uses a simple and human-readable language called YAML to define automation tasks, making it easy to understand and maintain.

Setting up Ansible

Before we can start automating security patching with Ansible, we need to set it up on our system. Follow these steps:

  1. Install Ansible: Ansible can be installed on various operating systems. Visit the official Ansible documentation for detailed installation instructions for your specific OS.
  2. Configure Ansible: Once Ansible is installed, you need to configure it by creating an inventory file. This file contains a list of hosts that Ansible will manage. You can also define variables and groups in the inventory file to organize your systems.
  3. Generate SSH keys: Ansible uses SSH to connect to remote systems. Generate SSH keys and distribute the public key to the remote systems to enable passwordless authentication.

Creating Ansible Playbooks

Ansible playbooks are YAML files that define the tasks to be executed on remote systems. In the case of security patching, we will create a playbook that installs the latest security patches on our target systems. Here’s an example playbook:

- name: Apply security patches
  hosts: all
  become: yes

    - name: Update package cache
        update_cache: yes
      when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"

    - name: Install security updates
        name: "*-security"
        state: latest
      when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"

    - name: Update package cache
        name: "*"
        state: latest
      when: ansible_os_family == "RedHat"

In this playbook, we have defined three tasks. The first task updates the package cache on Debian-based systems, the second task installs the latest security updates on Debian-based systems, and the third task updates the package cache on RedHat-based systems and installs the latest updates.

Running Ansible Playbooks

Once you have created your playbook, you can run it using the ansible-playbook command. Here’s how:

ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini playbook.yml

Replace inventory.ini with the path to your inventory file and playbook.yml with the path to your playbook file.

Scheduling Automated Security Patching

To automate the security patching process, you can schedule the execution of your Ansible playbook using cron or any other task scheduler. For example, you can create a cron job that runs the playbook every Sunday night to ensure that your systems are always up to date with the latest security patches.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Ansible be used to patch systems running different operating systems?

Yes, Ansible can be used to patch systems running different operating systems. Ansible provides modules for various package managers, allowing you to write platform-independent playbooks. You can use conditionals in your playbooks to execute tasks based on the target system’s operating system.

2. How can I ensure that the security patches are applied successfully?

Ansible provides a rich set of modules that can be used to check the status of packages and services. You can include tasks in your playbook to verify that the security patches are applied successfully. Additionally, Ansible provides a robust error handling mechanism that allows you to handle any failures during the patching process.

3. Can I customize the security patching process?

Yes, Ansible allows you to customize the security patching process according to your requirements. You can modify the playbook to include additional tasks such as rebooting the systems after patching or sending notifications once the patching is complete. Ansible’s flexibility allows you to tailor the automation to fit your specific needs.


Automating security patching with Ansible can greatly improve the security of your systems while saving you time and effort. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you can set up Ansible, create playbooks, and schedule automated security patching tasks. Stay proactive in keeping your systems secure!