Mature and responsible organizations in the financial and related industries have realized that protecting client data is as important as organizing data through web applications, processes, and systems.

This is particularly pertinent in the retirement plan industry as it involves the hard-earned money saved by people for their needs during the retirement period. Besides, plan providers, insurance companies, and third-party administrators (TPAs) also handle a lot of sensitive data, like social security number, address, DOB, and other personally identifiable information (PII). So, absolutely nothing can be left to chance when it comes to data privacy and protection.

So, how do application services providers to the sector ensure that their web applications are foolproof and safe? This is where the Penetration Testing (or Pen Tests) exercise is most useful. In simple terms, the pen test involves rigorously testing an IT system, network, or web application in a simulated environment to identify security weaknesses and vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. The process also entails scrutinizing the application for possible entry points for break-ins.

Most plan service providers offer web applications to clients through hosted solutions, cloud delivery, or a web server. So, the applications are checked on multiple counts to identify and plug potential ambiguities and loopholes.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), a non-profit foundation that works to improve software security, lists ten security risks that web applications are exposed to. They are injections flaws, broken application, sensitive data exposure, broken access control, security misconfiguration, cross-site scripting XSS, insecure deserialization, using components with known vulnerabilities, insufficient logging, and monitoring. Security specialists thoroughly run web applications through these risks to ensure they follow the requisite security standards.

The pen test is done by specialists from third-party consultants to avoid any burden or bias that may arise out of internal testing. The findings are collated in the form of a report. The report details the vulnerable areas and rates the risks the applications possess (high, medium, low). If critical loopholes or vulnerabilities are detected, they are brought to the attention of the application service provider, who can then fix the issue.

With the increasing threat of cyber attacks, it is extremely important than ever before to ensure all cyber controls are in place and conduct regular vulnerability scans. This preventive measure assures clients that all directives have been followed to uncover all possible threats to the system and its information.

If the organization’s system is attacked or its data is compromised because the loophole or flaw went undetected, it can cause a considerable loss of reputation and breach of trust. Hence, putting web applications and systems through periodic pen tests sends a huge reassuring message to clients that the software development culture in the organization is reliable and trustworthy.

Congruent Solutions, a specialist technology solutions firm working in the Defined Contribution space, takes integrity and compliance seriously. Data security forms the cornerstone of our offerings.  We conduct regular pen tests of our infrastructure and products. Congruent is ISO 27001 certified. We are also SOC 1 Type II and SOC Type 2 Type II certified that assures our clients of data security, integrity, and availability.

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