That’s a really bad idea #audit #infosec #fraud #financialfraud

I’m not even sure how to approach talking about this. One customer with a complex application that is both financial and regulatory was given a backdoor into the system to manually make changes to data without audit or validation. To keep the internal auditors from learning of this, the backdoor was put on the test application server, the user changes one parameter and the backdoor points to production. The purpose of this was, if there was an issue with processing a transaction, the user could just go into this backdoor, manually change the data and continue processing.

I learned about it when the business unit was complaining that the application server was down. Imagine my surprise, after checking the production application server several times to find there was no issue (with production). We were doing work on the test application server; causing the users to have issues getting into their backdoor.

We wound up having a discussion with the business unit that uses this application and backdoor. When I brought it up, on why this falls into “worst practices,” the users got stressed (stressed is an understatement) about losing their backdoor.I realize they have a business need to make changes to the data; so we came up with a compromise. 1) access to the backdoor will be tightly controlled to two people. 2) every time the customer is forced to use the backdoor, they need to open a ticket with a complete description of why they used the backdoor and what data was changed. 3) we are documenting the customer use cases for the backdoor, and developing an application for the user to make changes that are required,addressing audit, business rules, and data quality. 4) Transactions that have been closed will not be allowed to be changed. 5) The backdoor will be going away in the near future and be replaced with an application that meets the business units needs. See #3. This issue has become a top priority, the existence of a backdoor gives me the hebegeebees. 

Why is this a bad idea?

  1. Removing audit controls. We are relying on the integrity of the user. We would like to think that only honest employees are hired, however; that is not always the case. This customer has several documented incidents where a user defrauded the customer of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. (gee, wonder why)
    1. Audit controls not only protect the customer, the controls are also in place to protect the user. When a transaction is posted and there are questions about it; with a good audit trail the user can confidently say “this is what was done, and this is why I did it.” The auditor will have data to backup what the user stated and it stops there. However; if the audit trail is in question, then the auditor is going to keep digging; generally making everyone’s life stressful.
  1. We have a issue with data quality. Business rules are used to validate the data that is entered. There are several instances in this database where status codes don’t match known codes. There are also several instances in this database where data that should be not null have null values, and there are quite a few transactions that are no longer in balance. To overcome the not null issue, the columns were defined as null. The financial transactions that are out of balance, well because the audit trail is in question, it’s going to require a forensic auditor to sort that out. These transactions go back several years. Even though, there is a financial close, a user can go back and change data on transactions that have been closed out.

Guys, it’s a really bad idea to give users a backdoor.