Navigating Open Source Vulnerabilities in Financial Web Infrastructure

By Gary Roberts, CRO, Forrit

The proliferation of vulnerabilities within open-source platforms, coupled with fragmented web management systems and inadequate oversight, poses an imminent threat to the stability and security of the online ecosystem. This is a major concern for the global financial services industry. This puts financial services websites at risk of outage or attack and prevents the sector from embracing transformative digital innovations, such as Web 3.0, the metaverse, or AI.

At Forrit, we conducted an extensive survey encompassing over 500 influential IT and marketing decision-makers across the most heavily regulated industries, including financial services, to gauge the obstacles hindering the evolution of the internet. The findings paint a concerning picture: while there’s widespread optimism (89%) about the transformative potential of Web 3.0 and the metaverse, an overwhelming majority (87%) express apprehensions that the current state of the internet could impede the realisation of these innovations. Meanwhile, 73% admit that their current web management system is preventing them from embracing AI. Failure to keep pace with digital innovation will inhibit the industry from meeting customer expectations for fast, personalised financial services.

One major source of concern stems from the technologies and content management systems (CMS) utilised by financial institutions to construct their digital presence. Even in highly regulated sectors, there’s a prevalent reliance on CMS platforms susceptible to vulnerabilities and lacking scalability. Particularly problematic are CMS solutions based on open-source frameworks and organisations employing multiple legacy or isolated layers within their web management infrastructure.

According to our survey, over half of respondents (57%) acknowledge the existence of security flaws on their websites. Such vulnerabilities not only compromise data security but also erode customer trust, with a staggering 84% stating that customers would lose faith in a brand upon discovering security vulnerabilities.

These challenges extend beyond mere inconvenience; they can lead to heightened platform outages, exposure of critical security vulnerabilities, and render the web virtually unusable. At Forrit, we’ve coined the term “Web O.No” to underscore this grim outlook. The widespread adoption of Web 3.0 and the metaverse, as well as other future innovations, remains uncertain until we address these vulnerabilities and streamline web assets effectively.

Integration and Modernisation: The Path Forward

The concurrent use of multiple CMS platforms significantly amplifies website security vulnerabilities. Shockingly, our survey reveals that a substantial 88% of enterprises manage more than one CMS, creating numerous points of vulnerability within the system architecture. This proliferation of CMS platforms complicates web governance, leading to a concerning trend known as CMS sprawl, making it challenging for IT teams to manage and monitor effectively.

To address this, financial services must prioritise integrating siloed CMS platforms and transitioning away from legacy systems. A unified composable CMS architecture offers the agility and versatility necessary to adapt to evolving demands while mitigating security risks. Unlike traditional non-composable CMS solutions, composable platforms provide flexibility without compromising data security or confidentiality.

Mitigating Open Source Risks

Open-source solutions, while fostering collaboration and innovation, are susceptible to exploitation due to their community-driven nature. The inclusion of plug-ins within open-source platforms creates entry points for malicious actors, exposing businesses to significant cybersecurity threats. Recent incidents, such as the discovery of the malicious XZ backdoor, underscore the urgency of addressing these vulnerabilities.

Despite this risk, many major financial services enterprises continue to rely on open source platforms. The sector must prioritise migrating away from open-source CMS platforms and embracing closed-source composable CMS solutions. These platforms offer the innovation and flexibility associated with open-source solutions while ensuring data security and confidentiality.

Looking Ahead

The future of the internet holds immense promise, but realising its full potential requires addressing the vulnerabilities within our current infrastructure. Insecure, fragmented, and sprawling CMS systems pose significant security risks for financial institutions and businesses at large. Financial services can keep pace with innovation by taking proactive steps to modernise web infrastructure and mitigate open-source vulnerabilities while ensuring a more secure and resilient digital ecosystem for the industry.

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