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How Step-Up Authentication Protects Sensitive Data Access

By Shiv Sujir • November 24, 2021

Protecting and maintaining the integrity of data, especially sensitive data, is one of the core objectives of any security strategy. Since a majority of this data is stored and accessed using ERP applications, access to ERPs presents a significant risk to data security. To mitigate this risk, organizations have been deploying multi-factor authentication (MFA). While MFA re-confirms user identity and provides a layer of security at the time of login, it does nothing to reduce the exposure of sensitive data inside the ERP applications. This leaves a majority of the sensitive data unnecessarily exposed and at risk.

Why Sensitive Data Needs Additional Protection

Businesses collect, store, and process huge volumes of data every single day. This data includes sensitive information like Personally Identifiable Information (PII), financial information, intellectual property, healthcare records, and business intelligence. The value of this data puts it at constant risk from both external attacks and insider threats.

According to a 2019 IDC survey, 64% of ERP systems have been breached in the last 24 months. In addition, the 2021 Ponemon Institute Cost of a Data Breach Report pegs the average cost of a data breach at $4.24M, and the 2020 Cost of Insider Threat Report found that negligent employees or contractors were the biggest cause (63%) of insider threats. These findings are a clear indicator that many enterprises still struggle to control access to sensitive ERP data.

How Step-Up Authentication Protects Data

One of the most common challenges across industries is user over-provisioning. It basically means that users have more authorizations and privileges than they require granting them access to sensitive data even when it’s not needed. This not only increases access risk but also could lead to privacy violations and audit failures.

Step-up authentication allows security teams to implement an MFA challenge in-line with sensitive data fields like Social Security Number, Credit Card Information, bank accounts details, or any other sensitive field inside your ERP applications. It puts a control mechanism at the data field level creating an additional layer of security within your ERP systems to protect data, minimize exposure, and mitigate risk.

The Need for Dynamic Step-Up Authentication

Step-up authentication is a simple and effective solution to protect sensitive data. However, the number of MFA challenges a user has to complete to access data can increase significantly when implemented. To overcome this challenge, organizations need to take an adaptive security approach by shifting to an attribute-based access control security model. This allows security teams to implement step-up MFA challenges only when the context of access is considered risky.

For example, a step-up authentication challenge can be triggered when a user is logging into the ERP application from another country or with a personal device. Based on the organization’s security policy and compliance regulations, MFA challenges can be implemented dynamically at the field level after determining the risk posed by a specific access.

Other Benefits

Implementing dynamic step-up authentication at the field level enables enterprises to take their Zero Trust framework beyond the gate and deeper into applications. It also helps security teams to monitor access to sensitive data and detect unusual user activity. From a compliance perspective, step-up MFA protects sensitive data from unauthorized access and provides an audit trail.

Though all data within the enterprise network is considered private, sensitive data assumes greater significance due to its inherent value and compliance regulations applicable for its protection. The adaptive security capabilities of the Appsian Security Platform protect sensitive ERP data by implementing attribute-based access control to reduce the overall access risk and dynamic MFA at the field level that offers a layered security control.

Schedule a demo with our ERP experts to learn how you can deploy step-up authentication for sensitive data access.

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