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Security

Protecting ERP Data from Application Vulnerabilities Using A Multi-Layered Security Approach

By Michael Cunningham • August 6, 2020

You spend countless hours, not to mention considerable money, to secure your SAP and Oracle ERP data. One day, you discover that cybercriminals have exposed a vulnerability using an application misconfiguration. This has become increasingly common as criminals seek methods to covertly infiltrate applications to gain access to thousands of employee records. 

This situation happened to Microsoft in December 2019 and didn’t generate the kind of headlines usually associated with data breaches. This was simply a human error. But these kinds of human errors and misconfigurations are one way that hackers can gain a foothold into your SAP or PeopleSoft ERP system. Now the question is, how are you going to protect your data after an attacker side-stepped your perimeter defenses? 

Misconfiguration is the Fastest Growing Security Risk 

According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, misconfiguration errors (failing to implement all security controls) are up 4.9% from last year’s report and are the fastest-growing risk to web applications. It’s easy to apply this kind of risk to legacy ERP systems because SAP and PeopleSoft environments often consist of millions of lines of custom code and custom-built components communicating with each other and to external systems through various APIs and interfaces bolted together over time. 

On top of that, you’re dealing with an abundance of changes to roles, configurations, access controls, and compliance protocols to accommodate new business processes and evolving data privacy policies. If companies are not analyzing and monitoring the underlying security implications of all these changes and movement, they’re bound to face a similar situation as Microsoft with a backdoor left unlocked for any hacker to stroll through. 

Finally, don’t forget that many organizations simply do not stay current with system updates and security patches. According to the Data Breach Investigations Report, only half of the vulnerabilities are patched within three months after discovery, leaving companies exposed to attacks against known exploits.  

The Multi-Layered ERP Data Security Approach 

The growing complexity of SAP and PeopleSoft environments make securing ERP data an enormous challenge. To prevent inadvertent exposures from misconfiguration, Greg Wendt, executive director of Appsian, suggests that companies “must adopt a multi-layered security approach with dynamic security tools that can monitor user access in real-time, providing transparency over what data is accessed and by whom.”  

This multi-layered approach includes masking sensitive data, verifying identity via multi-factor authentication (MFA), and enhanced logging and analytics. Appsian adds layers of security WITHIN your ERP system to help ensure your data is still protected when a hacker strolls past your perimeter defenses, thanks to a misconfiguration. 

Dynamic Data Masking provides contextual masking policies that adapt to the context of access. That means when a hacker attempts to access sensitive data fields but doesn’t match key attributes such as user ID, privilege, device, location, or IP address, they will encounter full, partial, click-to-view masking or complete redaction of the data field. 

Adaptive MFA ensures that contextual attributes (ex. device, network, location) are the determining factor for deploying MFA challenges. For example, customers can require an MFA challenge when a user account is accessing the system from a remote IP address or after business hours.  

Enhanced Logging and Analytics with Appsian360 allow you to monitor your networks for suspicious activity and provide detailed insights regarding how, when, and by whom transactions and data fields are being accessed. This visibility is particularly important for identifying users with high-privilege access who are accessing pages they shouldn’t be. The enhanced logging can trace all the pages a user accessed during a session, helping to identify a potential intrusion. This kind of real-time data access and usage visibility was previously unavailable to SAP and Oracle ERP customers. 

Eyes and Ears on the Entire ERP Data Ecosystem at All Times  

“The enterprise must learn to have eyes and ears on their entire data ecosystem at all times,” said Wendt. Microsoft’s recent data breach due to misconfiguration highlights the importance of a security strategy that continuously looks for misconfigurations and compliance violations. Next, they should establish a multi-layered security approach to prevent unauthorized data access, along with enabling organizations with the ability to identify access trends that may be indicative of incorrect access controls. 

Misconfigurations are, unfortunately, a common error and should be treated with the same sense of urgency and level of effort by security professionals as their network perimeter. After all, not all attacks are external. 

Contact us today to learn how the Appsian Security Platform and Appsian360 can help you establish a multi-layered security solution. 

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