OBIEE upgrades and Windows vulnerabilities

These two topics may seem unrelated; however, the ransomware attacks over the last few days provide us with a reminder of what people can do with known vulnerabilities in an operating system.

Organisations consider upgrades a necessary evil; they cost money, take up time and often have little tangible benefit or return on investment (ROI). In the case of upgrades between major version of software, for example, moving from OBIEE 10g to 12c there are significant architecture, security, functional and user interface changes that may justify the upgrade alone, but they are unlikely to significantly change the way an organisation operates and may introduce new components and management processes which produce an additional overhead.

There is another reason to perform upgrades: to keep your operating systems compliant with corporate security standards. OBIEE, and most other enterprise software products, come with certification matrices that detail the supported operating system for each product. The older the version of OBIEE, the older the supported operating systems are, and this is where the problem starts.

If we take an example of an organisation running OBIEE 10g, the most recent certified version of Windows it can run is Windows 2008 R2, which will fall outside of your company's security policy. You will be less likely to be patching the operating system on the server as it will either have fallen off the radar or Microsoft may have stopped releasing patches for that version of the operating system.

The result leaves a system that has access to critical enterprise data vulnerable to known attacks.

The only answer is to upgrade, but how do we justify ROI and obtain budget? I think we need to recognise that there is a cost of ownership associated with maintaining systems, the benefit of which is the mitigation of the risk of an instance like the ransomware attacks. It is highly unlikely that anyone could have predicted those attacks, so you could never have used it as a reason to justify an upgrade. However, these things do happen, and a significant amount of cyber attacks probably go on undetected. The best protection you have is to make sure your systems are up to date.

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