Monday, September 7, 2015

BNY Mellon Software Glitch: Time to make SysTrust mandatory?

As was widely reported in the business press, BNY Mellon experienced a technical glitch that affected its ability to price mutual funds accurately. Based on the press release from one of the affected funds, the problems started on Monday August 24th, where one of BNY Mellon's system "InvestOne" managed by SunGard was pricing about 800 mutual funds inaccurately.

So what was the cause of this fiasco?

According to CNN, "BNY Mellon outage occurred after a SunGard accounting system it uses became "corrupted" following an upgrade. A back-up also failed."

Normally, this type of thing will force the party experiencing the breach intense scrutiny over what went wrong. However, as I went through the timeline posted by the company, I found (reading between the lines) that they did a number of things right, such as:
That being said, there is always room for improvement. When I was reflecting on this, I speculated that this was another case of inadequate testing of the system upgrade. However, according to SunGard, this was not the case. As they noted on their website:

"The issue appears to have been caused by an unforeseen complication resulting from an operating system change performed by SunGard on Saturday, August 22nd. This maintenance was successfully performed in a test environment, per our standard operating procedure, and then replicated in SunGard’s U.S. production environment for BNY Mellon. This change had also been previously implemented, without any issues, in other InvestOne environments. Unfortunately, in the process of applying this change to the SunGard production environment of InvestOne supporting BNY Mellon’s U.S. fund accounting clients, that environment became corrupted. Additionally, the back-up environment hosted by SunGard, supporting BNY Mellon’s U.S. fund accounting clients, was concurrently corrupted, thus impeding automatic failover. Because of the unusual nature of the event, we are confident this was an isolated incident due to the physical/logical system environment and not an application issue with InvestOne itself."

Given my background as a CA, CPA and CISA, I have always thought it is an odd contradiction that we expect infrastructure (road, dams, bridges, etc.) to be certified by engineers to be in working order (key word is expect, as John Oliver notes in the video below, this is not exactly up to snuff!), but do not have the same expectations for the technology that runs the Information Age.

And that's where I have always proposed that it is necessary to have a framework like SysTrust (now SOC2 and SOC3) in place that requires companies to ensure that their systems are reliable: secure, available, and able to process information without messing it up.

Based on the experience between SunGard and BNY Mellon, I think it actually proves the case. Although companies, like SunGard, likely have such controls in place it is beneficial to others to have a second set of eyes on those controls, ensuring that they are in place, are designed effectively and are operating effectively. The reason is that with such mandatory audits in place, it will allow for the circulation of best practices through such audits. This occurs in the financial auditing world through "management letter points".

One other area that we should explore is the total impact of this error, as it will give insights into the "total impact of failed IT controls". This will be the topic of the next blogpost.

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