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Securing Business Data in ERP Applications: A Fast Path Guide to Success

By Scott Lavery • December 8, 2020

With 2020 coming to a close, ensuring business applications are equipped to meet the longterm access demands of 2021 is a critical objective. All around the world, information security and financial risk leaders are being tasked with ensuring the security of business data while remote access (on unknown networks and devices) remains the standard for the foreseeable future. Finding solutions that can quickly and easily secure this data – without requiring an exorbitant amount of time and resources is mission critical. 

Data security is proving most challenging for organizations that utilize ERP applications like PeopleSoft, Oracle E-Business Suite, and SAP (ECC/S4HANA.) ERP applications like these were designed with ease-of-access to data as the primary objective. They have the biggest hill to climb when it comes to security, privacy, governance, and compliance.

Fortunately, this challenge is why Appsian (and the Appsian Security Platform) exists! We are here so organizations can fully utilize their investment in legacy ERP technology while scaling to meet present and future data security demands. After all, external and internal threats to business data will always continue to evolve.

Right now, thousands of organizations around the world are currently faced with the same challenges and are likely scoping solutions that solve one or two of these challenges. Here is the comprehensive approach that can serve as the playbook for securing legacy ERP data:

Identify Risks From User Access

The most significant risks to data typically originate from:

  • Compromised credentials (for example, stolen from phishing attacks)
  • Unknown networks and devices
  • Capture and visualize data access

These risks can be an acceptable part of an organization’s relationship with its ERP applications, but they don’t have to be. They should be addressed the way any security threat should – and it doesn’t have to result in overly-restricting access and potentially hindering authorized work. Restricting access to sensitive data can be the instinct when these risks are identified because risk mitigation can feel insurmountable. The truth is, mitigating controls can be implemented that fully align data security objectives with the access requirements of the business.

Apply Dynamic Authorization Policies

Dynamic authorization is the foundation of the principle of least privilege (PoLP), which says users should only have access to what they require. Given the access risks outlined above, it should be noted what someone “needs” (or should have) access to likely changes with each new context of access. For example, does high-privilege access require 100% of those capabilities from an unknown network and/or unmanaged device? How about during off-work hours? Many would say “no.” Applying access policies dynamically gives you this control. This strategy alone makes an enormous impact on an organization’s ability to control access to sensitive data and enable data security, privacy, and governance.

Integrate Authentication Solutions

It goes without saying that single sign-on and multi-factor authentication have become table stakes IAM solutions. Whether you have employed these for many years or only since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, it is clear that their value goes way beyond the convenience of not having to remember passwords. With these solutions in place, the job of securing data is not necessarily over. In fact, taking authentication a step further to align with zero-trust (aka. never trust, always verify) requires native integration of SSO and MFA solutions for four very important reasons:

  • ERP authentication should always align with your enterprise identity and access management strategies
  • Users falsely authenticate out of habit
  • Stepped-up authentication should be required for particularly sensitive activity
  • Using custom code (vs. native integration/configuration) for authentication is NOT a best practice

Capture and Visualize User Behavior

If I told you that most organizations have almost no idea who is accessing sensitive data (at any given time), how and why – would you be surprised? This may be a dirty little secret, but the truth is legacy ERP logging has simply not kept up to meet the demands of security and compliance requirements that must understand data access and usage by users.

What most ERP administrators will tell you is in order to respond to an audit or investigate an incident, they must pull multiple logs manually triangulate them. Only then does a foggy picture of what may have happened come into view. The problem is, a foggy picture of anything related to a forensic investigation or helping align with information security policies is simply not good enough.

Further investment is needed to enhance the granularity of native ERP logging, along with analytics and visualization tools in order to add context to the data, aggregate it and then visualize it so the insights can be actionable. Only then is the logging data that you are alrighty getting out of your ERP truly useful for security and compliance purposes.

Partner with Appsian Security

For over 10 years, Appsian Security has watched organizations struggle with many of the same ERP security and compliance issues. Mostly originating from the fact that their applications were not natively designed to do what they need them to do – i.e., secure data. This end result is the natural progression of security and compliance threats evolving while native ERP security features stay the same. 

ERP applications are built with static, role-based controls and logging/alerts designed for system troubleshooting. The idea that many of these legacy applications would be exposed to the internet with only a username, password and maybe a VPN standing between malicious actors and your business data is the definition of risky. Some organizations have accepted that risk – but they don’t have to.

Appsian has designed the world-leading security platform designed to provide holistic, end-to-end data security (along with application security), giving legacy ERP customers complete control and visibility over their ERP data.

We know that every organization is unique, which is why we want you to put our security platform to the test! Request a demonstration today, and let us show you how Appsian can tailor a solution to your organization’s unique requirements.

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