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AT&T Network Outage Emphasizes Software Update Best Practices

How AT&T Network Outage Impacts AV

On the morning of Thursday, February 22, telecommunications company AT&T suffered a major nationwide network outage that lasted about 12 hours, leaving customers unable to place calls, texts, or access the internet.

Occurring during peak usage hours, the AT&T outage plunged users into frustration and inconvenience. According to the network, investigations unveiled that a software update had faltered, triggering a domino effect across AT&T’s network infrastructure.

“Our initial review of the cause of Thursday’s outage indicates it was due to the application and execution of an incorrect process used while working to expand our network,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

Single Screen Conference Room
Single Screen Conference Room

Good news aside that the widespread outage was not caused by a cyberattack after an investigation conducted by federal agencies, service interruptions rippled through major metropolitan areas and rural locales alike, underscoring the critical importance of adhering to robust protocols when updating software and firmware. In fact, Stankey himself pointed out that it’s “a challenge that always requires care and focus.”

Especially in an increasingly network-based world, accurate and knowledgeable programming plays a pivotal role in software development and implementation, control system integration, and user interface functionality for AV systems. To ensure the seamless performance, maintenance, and mitigation of security risks for any integrated system—from conference rooms to command centers—there are a handful of proactive measures and best practices to follow.

Securing the Network

AV systems frequently depend on network connectivity for delivering content, as well as for control and management purposes. To ensure security, it’s essential to establish secure network architectures, including firewalls and intrusion detection systems, to defend against network-based attacks. Additionally, implementing robust authentication methods, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), alongside encryption protocols for data storage, helps protect sensitive information and prevents unauthorized access, further reducing potential risks.

Comprehensive Testing

Dual Screen Conference Room
Dual Screen Conference Room

Prior to deployment, thoroughly test software and firmware updates in controlled environments to identify potential issues applicable to the systems and mitigate risks of system disruptions. This should include a rigorous process for reviewing and scanning all source code to ensure proper functionality, fix common errors, and identify any security vulnerabilities—as well as validating that updates are compatible with all control systems as part of the integration to maintain seamless communication between different components.

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Strategic Scheduling

It’s best to implement updates during low-traffic periods to minimize user disruption and maintain service reliability. Establishing a systematic approach to software maintenance in general, including vulnerability scanning and patch management, helps minimize the risk of exploitation by malicious actors.

Backup and Redundancy

Perhaps not as widespread as an AT&T network outage, but nevertheless, unexpected system downtime and even data loss can occur. Establish backup systems and redundancy mechanisms to mitigate risks of data loss and system outages during the software update process.

Post-Update Monitoring

After updates are released and loaded into the environment, monitor the AV system closely for any anomalies or performance issues. It’s best to run standard network scanning tools to ensure there are no unauthorized ports and that the system is stable with the latest code.

Open Communication

Needless to say, maintain transparent communication with all necessary stakeholders, promptly informing them of scheduled maintenance and potential impacts on service availability. Plus, these communications may serve a secondary purpose to further educate users about security best practices, training programs, and user guidelines to help promote a culture of security consciousness among system operators, administrators, and end-users.

Professional Support

When in doubt or dealing with complex AV integrations, consider engaging ongoing professional support services from a trusted AV integrator. Their expertise and support teams can be invaluable in ensuring successful software and firmware updates without compromising system stability.

Josh Herring is a seasoned pro AV marketing communications professional and content creator with a background in publishing, PR and telling stories about transformative tech.

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