Analytics, Security

Why the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) Presents Challenges for Legacy ERP Customers

By Michael Cunningham • November 20, 2020

While nearly everyone was focusing on the results of the 2020 Presidential race, California voters passed Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) (full text here). You might be wondering if this is a new privacy law that will replace the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect earlier this year. The CPRA provides additional context to the CCPA and attempts to close some of the loopholes and ambiguity found in the original. The CPRA gives additional rights to consumers and places additional obligations on businesses. 

While some of the CPRA changes will take effect immediately, most will not become enforceable until July 1, 2023, and apply only to personal information collected after January 1, 2022. Like the run-up to the launch of CCPA, companies will have time to prepare for the new requirements. 

A Quick Summary of the California Privacy Rights Act 

In scope, the CPRA retains the same basic structure as the CCPA. It includes establishing a dedicated enforcement agency for consumers, tripling fines against companies that violate kids’ data privacy, and making it harder to weaken privacy laws in the future. 

A couple of the more notable additions in the CPRA are that the law expands the right to opt-out of sharing of information and establishes new rights to limit how businesses use “sensitive personal information,” a new term defined broadly to include, among other things: information about health conditions, genetic data, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, precise geolocation, and more.

ERP applications already store an abundance of personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, or passport numbers. This new data classification adds to the effort of identifying and classifying information necessary to remain in compliance.

The CPRA Signals Organizations Must Get Serious About Enhancing Data Access and Usage Visibility – Especially for Legacy ERP Applications  

The CCPA and CPRA require organizations to implement appropriate security measures around personal data privacy and satisfy consumer requests to opt-out of “sharing” and “selling” of their information. That means businesses must know what personal data they collect and how that data is accessed and used. However, companies using PeopleSoft, SAP ECC, S/4HANA, and Oracle E-Business Suite are likely facing significant compliance challenges due to inherent limitations that plague legacy ERP systems. Traditional ERP application logs do not produce the required level of granularity into how data is accessed.  

How Appsian360 Enables CCPA/CPRA Compliance 

Successful organizations will invest in technologies that monitor user behavior around data access and usage. This is where Appsian360 becomes an essential tool for compliance, as it expands native ERP logging capabilities to capture contextual details like what data was accessed, where it was accessed from, user IDs, IP addresses, pages accessed, actions performed, and more – information that is paramount for compliance reporting. 

More Data Privacy Acts Likely on the Horizon 

With the CPRA, Californians will likely have the most robust online privacy rights in the world. And it probably won’t be the last. The original passage of the CCPA incentivized other states to draft their own privacy bills. There’s been activity at the federal level as well. So, while the pandemic rightfully slowed down state and federal activity, there’s a good chance we’ll see additional privacy bills in 2021.

There’s no better time than the present to press forward with your compliance efforts, whether it’s for CCPA, GDPA, and now CRPA. Contact us to learn how Appsian can fast track your CCPA and CRPA compliance efforts by enhancing your visibility into data access and usage. 

Stay Updated


How to Detect Insider Threats in Your ERP System

By Michael Cunningham • November 16, 2020

Insider Threats Are Becoming More Frequent and More Costly to Organizations. Especially Those Using Legacy ERP Systems. Here’s How You Can Proactively Prevent the Risk of Insiders Compromising Data 

While data breaches caused by hacking/phishing/ransomware tend to grab the most headlines, most data security incidents are from trusted insiders with access to sensitive data and systems. Thus, making insider threats one of the most common, yet elusive, risks to manage.

When you hear the term “insider threats,” most people reflexively think about a greedy or disgruntled employee abusing their access for revenge or financial gain. But there’s more to the definition than the angry employee out for revenge. An insider can be a current or former employee, contractor, or business partner with legitimate access to the organization’s network, systems, or data. The insider threat occurs when the insider (user) maliciously or unintentionally misuses their access to negatively affect or harm the business. So assuming all insider threats are disgruntled employees is false – an insider who is unintentionally violating a business policy can inflect plenty of damage.

Why Are Insider Threats So Dangerous to Organizations Using Legacy ERP Systems? 

The number one issue for security teams when it comes to detecting an insider threat is the user in question has authorized access to the ERP system. It’s the malicious intent or individual violation amongst the rest of the legitimate access that makes it difficult to tell the difference between a user’s regular activity and possible malicious activity. What makes them especially dangerous is that insiders usually know how to find and access sensitive data and sometimes have a privileged (or over-privileged) account.  

Insider threats are among the most common causes of data breaches worldwide, and they can often be among the costliest. According to the 2020 Insider Threat Report (Cybersecurity Insiders), 68% of organizations observed that insider attacks have become more frequent over the last 12 months. Moreover, 70% have experienced one or more insider attacks during that same period. Ponemon calculates that the average cost per insider incident is $11.45 million in 2020, increasing by 31% from 2018.  

The increase in attack frequency shouldn’t surprise anyone thanks to the COVID-induced necessity for remote access to ERP systems and data. While security teams were likely focusing their cybersecurity efforts and budgets on securing the perimeter, cybercriminals found new ways to target user accounts with phishing and social-engineering attacks. 

The good news is that organizations using ERP systems can detect and defend against insider threats with a combination of data-centric security measures and monitoring data access and usage.  

Detecting Insider Threats by Monitoring ERP Data Access and Usage 

Detecting an insider threat as quickly as possible is essential to limiting the amount of damage, financial or otherwise, this insider can cause. However, how can you tell the difference between regular activity and harmful activity? With an insider using a legitimate login profile, there aren’t obvious warning signs when malicious behavior takes place.  

Monitoring user behavior around data access and usage can highlight internal access misuse and credential theft. And continuously monitoring for outlier and anomalous behavior patterns provides visibility into how high-privilege users interact with sensitive data. This monitoring helps security teams identify a possible malicious insider or if an external attacker has compromised an employee’s credentials. For example: 

  1. Monitoring user activity during remote access down to the transaction level 
  2. Monitoring data access and usage by users with high privileges 
  3. Monitoring query attempts to download information onto unauthorized devices 
  4. Monitoring exactly who is accessing highly sensitive data fields 

Without advanced analytics and data monitoring, keeping track of every user’s activities after they’ve logged in to the system is a lot of work. In some cases, raw logs from your ERP system need to be manually checked, and each event studied—often after an insider threat has already occurred. No wonder the average time to identify and contain an insider threat incident is 77 days (Ponemon).  

When security teams monitor data access and usage, they can be proactively alerted to potential insider threats by identifying anomalous activity with actionable insights into what was accessed and by whom. Now organizations can quickly respond with a full forensic investigation and a rapid and thorough response. 

Preventing Insider Attacks with Dynamic, Data-Centric Security 

Although security professionals recognize the value of continuously monitoring data access and usage to detect insider threats, companies should also adopt a layered, data-centric security model to improve the likelihood of preventing an insider threat from attacking. 

Enhance Access Controls with Dynamic Authorization Policies 
Organizations should start by incorporating dynamic authorization strategies that use contextually aware access controls. Dynamic authorization gives organizations a way to leverage the contextual attributes of access such as geolocation, time of day, and IP address to better control the resources users access, how they access it, and from where they access it. For example, you can prevent an insider threat who has legitimate credentials from accessing sensitive data because they accessed the ERP system from a foreign IP address and outside of established business hours.  

Expand the Use of Data Masking  
You’re likely already masking the obvious data fields with personal information, like social security numbers, bank account information, national ID number, passport number, driver’s license number, etc. However, now that insider threats are increasing, organizations should expand the use of data masking to all fields that could be considered personally identifiable, giving you greater control over who can see what data and when. And deploying data masking based on dynamic authorization policies, like location, device, and time of day allows a more secure-and flexible-access to data.  

Enable Stepped-Up Multi-Factor User Authentication  
Using stepped-up multi-factor authentication is an important tool for preventing insiders from doing stuff they shouldn’t. When it comes to performing transactions with sensitive information, adding multi-factor at the transaction level as well as the perimeter ensures that users are not only authorized to access and view the data but perform the actual transaction.  

Take A Proactive Approach to Detecting and Preventing Insider Threats 

When it comes to insider threats, most security teams live in a murky gray middle zone struggling to determine the difference between regular user activity and anomalous activity indicating an insider attack. Organizations can help their IT security teams take a clear, proactive approach to detecting and preventing insider threats and attacks by applying a data-centric security approach combined with continuous monitoring of data access and usage. 

Want to see a demonstration of how Appsian can help your organization detect insider threats? Contact us to chat with an Appsian security expert today. 

Stay Updated


Using Advanced Analytics to Improve ERP System Performance

By Michael Cunningham • November 6, 2020

Improve ERP System Performance with Real-Time Data Access & Usage Visibility  

Your ERP system is a complex ecosystem with multiple deployments, serving hundreds to thousands of users. All of which are processing batch jobs, completing transactions, and performing daily functions that are the lifeblood for operations. Sitting at the center of this ecosystem is your system administrators, who oversee monitoring and maintaining the ERP system’s overall health and performance.  

Factors Driving up Administration Complexity 

In many ERP deployments, integrations with application and web servers, along with other external systems are common. Further increasing complexity is that each has its own set of monitoring tools to determine the quality of service they are delivering. This fragmented approach can make it challenging to identify and resolve ERP system performance issues. Now there’s a tool that allows you to focus exclusively on the health of your ERP system: Appsian360

How Appsian360 Reduces Complexity 

Appsian360 focuses squarely on ERP-specific performance metrics that allow you to quickly isolate and identify performance issues: 

  • Average Page Load Time 
  • Top 10 Components Accessed 
  • Average Page Load Time by Application 
  • Pages Accessed by Device Type 
  • Page Access Count and Average Page Load Time 
  • Top 10 Underperforming Pages 

Appsian360 is also capturing real-time data access and usage information that provide a clear narrative around how user traffic is affecting system performance. It can also be used to combat security threats or uncover fraud. 

Organization-Wide ERP System Performance at a Glance 

Now you have information at your fingertips that allow you to become proactive about system degradation, rather than reactive and relying on users to report the issues to you. Fixing slowness issues ahead of time might also prevent more serious problems like data corruption, which lead to time lost across the whole enterprise. 

You can also focus on application performance across office locations and by hardware. For example: 

  • Average Page Load Time by Country 
  • Average Page Load Time by Location (looks like office locations) 
  • Average Page Load Time by IP [Address] 
  • Average Page Load Time by Web Server 
  • Average Page Load Time by App Server 

If your offices are spread across the globe, for example, in America, India, and New Zealand, you can examine the Average Page Load Time by Country. Just by looking at a map, you can see that maybe one of the offices in India is running slow while the other is performing within normal speeds. You can contact the appropriate IT team in that office to investigate. 

Resolving Individual Issues Within Minutes 

Raise your hand if a user has ever contacted you with, “Oh, the system is really slow today.” It’s a common yet frustrating reality for sys admins because it lacks context. Is the performance slow just for that one person or for everybody? Is the performance issue for a single component or an entire application?  

Without Appsian360, your team has few resources to resolve this issue. For example, the resources available to you might include: 

  • The user description of the problem 
  • You can try to replicate what the user was accessing or viewing 
  • You might need to even visit the user’s office location and check the device 
  • Maybe it’s related to a time of day, etc.  
  • Based on this information, you can try to replicate the issue.  
  • Finally, you might have access to database monitoring tools to give you an idea of how individual queries are performing. However, this is a piecemeal approach and lacks insight into the actual ERP system performance as a whole. 

Resolving these system performance issues manually could take hours or days to resolve. With Appsian360, you can drill into a particular IP address and get details on a user’s individual access in the system, and you can drill-down into the context you need to create actionable insights. For example, you can view the user’s Average Page Load Time by Application. Now you can holistically look at those transaction sets together to see how they’re affecting your system and the users working within the system. 

Drilling down a bit further, you can look at the Top 10 Underperforming Pages. Now you’re getting more granular with your detective work to see if a specific page is performing slowly. In a matter of minutes and just a few clicks, a system admin can diagnose a system performance issue and put into place an action plan to resolve the issue.  

The Proactive Approach to ERP System Performance  

The regular duties of an ERP system administrator include making sure that the system is performing to its maximum ability and resolving any issues and problems the users might have. They’re also trying to resolve system performance issues before people complain there is a problem. Because when the ERP system performance deteriorates, productivity suffers, employee morale declines, and the company’s bottom line is negatively impacted. 

Contact us today to learn how Appsian360 can transform your IT team into proactive ERP application administrators and keep your ERP system running at peak performance levels.  

Stay Updated


How IT Can Use ERP Data to Become a Hero to their Business Stakeholders

By Michael Cunningham • November 4, 2020

When business stakeholders come to you looking for answers, having visibility and context around ERP data access and usage gives you the actionable insight necessary to provide value.

As a leader of Enterprise Applications, customizing legacy ERP applications like PeopleSoft, SAP ECC, Oracle EBS, etc., to meet your business’ exact process specifications can leave you between a rock and a hard place. The more customized your ERP applications get, the more your business stakeholders love it, but the complexity around application support and maintenance also increases. That being said, accepting more complexity is just part of the job, because after all, your most important role (in the eyes of others) is providing timely and accurate resolution to inquiries or incidents from your business stakeholders

You know the drill: members from various business units come to you requesting help for a particular incident or an anomaly they spotted. It’s up to your team to provide a resolution in a timely manner. And that’s where the trouble begins. Many incidents require hours, weeks, and even months to research and resolve. It’s hard to provide excellent customer service to the lines of business when your team is facing major obstacles to resolving incidents in a timely manner.  

What if I told you there’s a way to enable your team to spend less time researching an issue (or no time at all) and produce faster results while providing better value for the various business leaders and their teams? 

Three Major Obstacles to Timely ERP Incident Resolution 

You’re the last person who wants to hear or say, “well, that’s just [insert ERP app name here].” But that’s one way you can sum up the limitations and obstacles your team will immediately encounter.  

Here’s a simplified view of that process from the perspective of PeopleSoft. Somebody from a line of business will contact a member of your Sys Admin team and say, “Hey, this user’s account was updated (i.e., maybe they didn’t get their paycheck), or there was some sort of anomaly in the execution of a typical business transaction (i.e., vendor didn’t get paid, etc.). We don’t know what it is, and the functional user(s) say it wasn’t them. We’re not sure what happened. Can you guys look into this? That would be great.”  

This incident kicks off your process flow to find a resolution. Then come the obstacles: 

Obstacle 1Legacy ERP Logs Can’t Tell You About Data Access 

Experience says that most people who use an ERP application like PeopleSoft don’t know who’s doing what (specifically), who’s accessing what information, or most importantly – why. You probably first need to work out if this is something that the user did themselves or a hacker was able to gain access to the system – and also work out if this is an inside job or an external attack.

And while the logs can point you in the right direction, the legacy ERP logs are not designed to provide detailed information on who accessed what or even, in most cases, viewed something sensitive. This leads to major obstacle number two…

Obstacle 2ERP Logs are Disparate and Not Correlated 

ERP logs were designed for troubleshooting, not granular activity logging, which contributes to organizations and business units not knowing what their employees are doing inside the applications. When it’s time to go under the application hood and examine the native logs, another metaphor comes to mind: looking for a needle in the haystack. Here’s an example of all the native logs you might find in your instance of PeopleSoft: 

  1. App Server 
  2. PIA (Web Server) 
  3. Database 
  4. Process Scheduler 
  5. Load Balancer 
  6. Identity Provider (SAML, LDAP, ADFS) 
  7. Host O/S Logs 
  8. Firewall 

Your organization likely has more than one of these servers where these logs reside. You might have four application servers, eight web servers, and so on. Now you’re looking at finding a needle in multiple haystacks. And that data is not correlated, so there is little relative context that can enable your investigation. 

Here’s a nerdy example using the App Server and Web Server logs. On the Web Server, you cannot identify the person who logged in because you don’t know the OPRID. All you have are an IP address and a timestamp. You need to go to the App Server and review the OPRID, timestamp, and IP address on login or log out and attempt to correlate that information with similar information on the Web Server.  

Obstacle 3: Log Data is Not Enriched with Any Context That Makes It Actionable 

Once your team has collected data from the logs and assembled material from other sources, the final step is to interpret everything and make a best guess so an action item can be established. How actionable is having a collection of raw data such as IP addresses, user IDs, location of devices, completed transaction, etc., if you’re not able to place that data into a human context?  

Let’s take the example of “Jim” and the incident involving him not receiving a paycheck. The raw ERP data shows that Jim’s credentials accessed pages containing personal information and bank account information several times over a period of time. Jim, the human, denies that he made any changes to the data on those pages, so the paycheck should have been routed to his usual bank account. Maybe you change Jim’s username and password and cut him another check. Was Jim trying to defraud the company and get an extra check, or was Jim’s account compromised in some way? Could a hacker have accessed Jim’s payroll data, changed the account number, received the funds, then changed the number back – getting away without a trace? Absolutely! It happens every day. If you cut Jim a new check, you fix Jim’s immediate problem, but do you understand what’s happening in your system?  

Why Appsian360 Immediately Makes You a Hero to Your Organization 

You’ve been waiting in suspense to know when IT becomes the hero – well, here it is. When the business comes to you looking for answers related to a specific incident, Appsian360 provides the quick, actionable insight necessary to provide the company with the understanding of what happened with their ERP data.  

How? Appsian360 logs granular user access to data, correlates existing ERP logs, enriches the data with contextual attributes (who, when, where, what device, etc.), and visualizes the ERP data’s access and usage on dashboards. Now your team can easily look at data access by IP addresses, user IDs, location of devices, pages accessed, etc., and very quickly understand the facts behind an incident. 

Let’s go back to Jim’s situation. With just a handful of clicks in Appsian360, you confirm that “Jim’s credentials” did indeed access and edit his personal information. Additionally, you discover that “Jim” was logging in after-hours using a foreign IP address based in another country. With a few more clicks, it’s clear that the IP address is responsible for other compromised user accounts. You didn’t just discover Jim’s breach, you now have a clear picture and a direction to fix the actual security issue – one that was growing in urgency by the day!

Without context, you lack insight. Context around data access and usage creates actionable insights. Actionable insights support the company and provide value to key stakeholders.  

Understanding user activity and data usage are precisely what the business needs – and without Appsian360, ERP logs lack insight. You can buck that trend with Appsian360.

Contact us to learn how Appsian360 can provide you with the most powerful, real-time view into ERP data access & usage. 

Stay Updated


Are Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) Haunting Your ERP Applications?

By Michael Cunningham • October 29, 2020

Halloween 2020 (the day, not another movie) is right around the corner. Usually, I’m thinking about spirits and haunted houses and candy. Now that I’m working for a company that helps organizations defend their ERP data, my mind wanders to a more sinister “spirit” that might be haunting the halls of your legacy ERP system: the advanced persistent threat (APT). These technological poltergeists work hard to remain undetected as they quietly take possession of the very soul of your company: your data. Let’s look at how you can find out if you have one and what you can do about it.  

What Is An Advanced Persistent Threat?  

TechTarget defines an advanced persistent threat (APT) as a “prolonged and targeted cyberattack in which an intruder gains access to a network and remains undetected for an extended period of time.” APT attacks are typically aimed at organizations in sectors such as national defense, manufacturing, and the financial industry due to their high-value information.   

While your company may not be the type of organization to draw the attention of well-organized and well-funded hacker groups or rogue nation-states, you must remember that the attacker’s primary focus is to steal data rather than cause damage to the network. That means an APT can be a malicious outsider or an insider. And the last thing they want is for you to detect their presence and cast them out.   

Signs that You May Be Haunted by An Advanced Persistent Threat  

Haunted house movies typically start the same way: the residents of the house begin to notice slight anomalies that indicate something out of the norm is happening. Let’s take a look at some spooky behavior that can indicate the presence of a figurative ghost in the ERP system.   

Payroll Theft is Most Commonly a Result of an APT 

Perhaps your payroll department notices irregularities: different direct deposits getting wired to the same account, employees who opted for paper paychecks instead of direct deposit report they are no longer receiving their mail. Or, perhaps during a routine security audit, you notice the sudden creation of high-privileged user accounts, yet there are no entries in the logs that show who requested or approved them. Finally, you might wonder why, and how, Fred from procurement is logging into the HRIS and frequently accessing executive payroll information. Is it actually Fred or Fred’s login credentials? 

The Context of Access Can be a Sign of an APT 

There are other signs of paranormal activity in your ERP system, such as after-hours activity by normal accounts, excessive login failures, and suspicious access from overseas locations and unknown IP addresses. Regardless of the signs, your next step is to begin an investigation. The advanced persistent threat is counting on your inactivity to stay hidden.   

Using Layered Security to ‘Ghost Proof’ Your ERP 

When abnormal behavior reveals itself, companies using legacy ERP systems are often left in the dark. These systems lack the granular visibility into data access and usage essential to locating and removing malicious spirits.   

Appsian empowers companies to adopt a layered security approach that features dynamic controls for authentication & authorization, along with real-time monitoring that provides transparency over what data is accessed and by whom. Appsian adds these extra layers of security WITHIN your ERP system to help ensure that data is still protected even if it is being haunted by an APT (ex. valid login credential stolen by a phishing attack.)   

Who You Gonna Call?  

Every organization, regardless of size or industry, is susceptible to advanced persistent threats, in addition to all the other cybersecurity threats that go bump in the night. Prevention and early detection are your best defenses against these ghosts and spooks accessing and stealing your company’s data. 

Contact us today to learn how the Appsian can help you establish a multi-layered security solution and increase your visibility into data access and usage.  

Stay Updated


Data Breaches Are Going Up, While Cybersecurity Training is… Going Down?

By Scott Lavery • October 27, 2020

According to a recent Shred-It survey, both senior leaders and employees indicated data breaches doubling in frequency in the last few years. Consequently, these same groups also reported modest but still peculiar decreases in cybersecurity training commonly used to identify tactics like phishing, ransomware, or other malicious software. Senior leaders saw a 6% drop, and employees saw a 7% drop from 2019-2020. While not eye-popping numbers by themselves, it begs the question – if data breaches are going up, why is cybersecurity training going down?

You could argue that a top theme of 2020 would be the dramatic rise in data breaches, so it’s worth wondering if a downward trend in training is likely to continue, or will it reverse course in 2021?

Cybersecurity Training for Employees May No Longer Be Relevant?

This is a controversial and over-simplified statement, but the downward trends point to this attitude within organizations. If cyberattacks are evolving in sophistication each day, then how can organizations keep up? At what point do you accept the fact that attacks are likely to be successful, and you need to invest your resources in risk management and mitigation? The truth is, information security professionals are constantly playing behind the 8-ball when it comes to combatting employee-targeted cybercrime. Spoofed landing pages and emails that mimic corporate branding can be created in a matter of minutes – while LinkedIn, along with countless databases, have made it simple to discover and exploit org charts. If cybercriminals are always one step ahead, is cybersecurity training constantly obsolete?

Is Employee-Targeted Cybercrime Becoming Too Hard for Employees to Spot?

As the head of a department myself, who reports directly to the CEO, I cannot begin to tell you how many emails I’ve received “from” my CEO, disguised to send money, reports, or some information that a hacker would use maliciously. It’s not magic. The hacker found my CEO, worked their way backward to assume who the direct reports were, created a perfect replica of my company’s email signature, sent it around, and hoped for the best! The only reason it didn’t work is because I scrutinized the nature of the request – not the email used to make the request. The email was flawless.

Let’s apply this enterprise-wide. Heading into end-of-year, countless employees will be asked up update information in their ERP applications. All for many reasons – benefits open enrollment, updating personal information so tax documents or bonuses can be received. Spoofed “update your password” emails and landing pages that are designed to steal login credentials are the #1 cause of identity theft and payroll diversion. Why are they so effective? Because if you have the ERP login credential, you have the power! Primarily relying on a password security model means employees must correctly scrutinize those spoofed emails and landing pages, then choose NOT to comply with what this spoofed “corporate email” is telling them to do. How effective do you think that will be throughout an entire organization?

It is challenging to teach scrutiny, but organizations are trying. The lesson always is – never open attachments from outside email addresses, never send personal information, etc. However, in the age of remote work and ubiquitous mobile device usage, relying on this level of scrutiny is extremely difficult. And the hackers know this! Detecting spoofed emails and landing pages is tough enough on a desktop, but it’s extremely hard on a mobile device.

What’s a More Effective Way of Preventing Cybercrime?

Simple. Using software to analyze email links and attachments (which most companies are already doing) and making the data that the hackers want more difficult to obtain (ex. employee PII from ERP applications.) Information security teams use these solutions to fail-proof an employee’s lack of scrutiny. As these solutions become more sophisticated, it makes sense for these to be your primary areas of protection. Leaving good ole’ employee training in the dust.

Is Cybersecurity Training for Employees Still Relevant?

Short answer, yes! Employees should always be doing their part to protect their personal data, along with business data. However, the inverse trend in data breaches and training is simply a reflection of a re-allocation of resources. Or, as my dad would say, “the juice is not worth the squeeze.”  Training a workforce is extremely complicated and expensive. As technology evolves to the point where it can do the scrutinizing for employees, we’re likely to see the downward trend in training continue.

How Can I Protect Legacy ERP Data Since Data Breaches are Going Up?

Another short answer, invest in ERP data security! Like I discussed above, solutions that provide risk-aware controls reinforce authentication protocols (ex. multi-factor authentication) and enable data access & usage monitoring are available. However, organizations must be aware that not all applications are created equally when it comes to control and visibility.

Legacy ERP applications like SAP ECC, PeopleSoft, and Oracle EBS require additional sophisticated solutions to enable control and visibility because their native security features have an antiquated focus. Their native security features rely solely on usernames and passwords, static governance policies (role-based access controls), and system logging designed to troubleshoot application errors – not monitor data access.

This is where Appsian has helped hundreds of legacy ERP customers – and can help you as well. Contact us today, and we’ll show you how you can enable a sophisticated data security model (for legacy ERP data) in a matter of weeks!

And whether you decide to do more or less cybersecurity training for employees, know that Appsian is here to protect your data no matter what tactics malicious attackers try to use!

Stay Updated


Why You Should Avoid Customizing PeopleSoft to Enable Single Sign-On (SAML)

By Greg Sosna • October 22, 2020

Don’t Risk the Security of your Data by Customizing an SSO Integration for PeopleSoft

I was on a discovery call recently, and the Senior Software Engineer shared how they’re “ripping out” a custom-built (for PeopleSoft) single sign-on solution (SSO). After acquiring an enterprise SSO, they attempted to build a custom integration with PeopleSoft that presented far more challenges than benefits – especially when users attempted to access with a deep link. Now they’re looking to remove the solution along with the additional infrastructure that was required. 

And here’s the sad part: they’re not the first organization I’ve encountered this month who are experiencing the same challenge. Across all verticals including healthcare, higher education, government, retail and more – PeopleSoft customers are rethinking their decision to enable their enterprise SSO solutions with custom coding, external gateway agents, and reverse proxies. Alternatively, implementing solutions that feature native SAML authentication handlers

Your Custom Single Sign-On Integration Was Not Designed with ERP Data Security in Mind 

These projects often start with the IT department recognizing that it can solve a business requirement by building the solution themselves or by using a generic gateway with copy-and-paste code off an internet forum. The main motivation? They possibly save the company some money, bypass the need for approvals or budget, and check a project off their list. Easy-peasy, right? As highlighted in the example above, it’s not always that straight forward.  

Often, these projects lack a thoughtful mindset and instead leverage code that is many years old, unsupported and public to developers and hackers alike. Here lies one of the biggest problems with customizing PeopleSoft for SSO authentication. Getting the integration to work “well enough” is often the goal, and since developers are not information security professionals – they may not have considered the ramifications of using code that hackers can reverse engineer, potentially exploiting loopholes to gain unauthorized access. As a former PSAdmin who personally retrofitted a custom PeopleSoft SSO solution in my past life, I can tell you that security implications are not on the forefront. Between IT wanting to be a good partner to the business and drowning in long-haul projects, “good enough” was often the goal.

The “Typical” Custom Single Sign-On Approach

There are a few ways to approach building a custom SSO solution. You could try linking SAML open-source code libraries, using reverse proxies, or having an external agent handle it. These solutions seem relatively simple at the outset, but the introduced vulnerabilities are often not obvious or ignored. The end result is that the SSO “works” but is plagued by technical, functional, and security issues once in production. 

Linking SAML Open Source Code Libraries 

A custom coding project typically begins with a review of PeopleBooks and a Google search to find a relatively quick way to write the code. PeopleCode allows you to link external open source java libraries inside PeopleSoft. This is code that you’re literally pulling from an old blog and has not been reviewed since the author first published it. Imagine using code from 2007 to secure your custom single sign-on project. It would never pass a security review!

Secondly, developing a solution yourself is tricky. It isn’t easy to write software that deals with passwords, identity, and authentication. Reputable IdPs spend tens of thousands of man-hours designing, coding, and testing, then supporting their solutions. The lone developer who built your custom solution is now responsible for supporting, maintaining, and upgrading the code. That’s excellent job security for him but a security liability for you. 

Reverse Proxies, Gateways, and External Authentication Agents 

This one is probably a favorite with system administrators who want to support a multitude of non-SAML apps with a one-size-fits-all solution. I’ve also implemented SSO like this in the past, so I can speak from experience about how this works and its risks. 

The short version of how this works is that the authentication is offloaded to a reverse-proxy, an agent, or a gateway, that sits outside PeopleSoft. Once the authentication process is successfully completed, only then is a connection made to PeopleSoft, and the authenticated user-ID passed to the HTTP header. Then that request has to be trusted by a custom Sign-on PeopleCode.  

Aside from the risky firewall configuration, another issue here is that it needs to be scaled carefully for bandwidth because all of the requests will now go through a new server and several new applications to complete the process. Now you have additional hardware, software, and customizations to maintain and patch in addition to your regular PeopleSoft duties. 

Why a Native SAML Handler is Best Practice

SSO is critical to help you increase your security posture within your organization while keeping your customers happy, so I don’t want to sound negative, and I’m not trying to put you off on installing an SSO solution in your environment. Instead, I want to make sure you do it correctly and aligned to security best practices.  

My advice is to use a solution that natively supports a SAML authentication handler and seamlessly and securely passes the token to PeopleSoft built-in authentication without customizations. The term “native” is extremely important here! The lack of native support is a critical issue that plagues custom solutions, creating more hoops to jump through to complete the project. 

Fortunately, Appsian delivers the SAML integration layer required to connect PeopleSoft, an IdP, and your enterprise Single Sign-On. This solution is natively installed right into the PeopleSoft Internet Architecture (PIA) and does not require the use of proxy servers, agents, or gateways. Furthermore, there are zero customizations, simple configuration with extensive support for SAML attributes, user-mapping, and the support and maintenance is offloaded from your team. 

There is Beauty in Customization but Comfort in ERP Data Security 

Part of PeopleSoft’s beauty and power is that you can customize the system to improve your business processes. However, one thing you shouldn’t take into your own hands is authentication, and indirectly, security. Your IT team, system admins, and developers should spend their time supporting and customizing your system to provide outstanding service to the business units and keeping the system running smoothly. Why add more hardware, software, applications, and customization than necessary? 

Contact us today to learn how Appsian solves the SAML integration challenge by providing the only configurable SSO for PeopleSoft.

Stay Updated


SAP Access Control: A Beginner’s Guide to SAP Dynamic Authorization

By Michael Cunningham • October 20, 2020

As your company’s digital footprint grows, you can enhance your security posture by complementing your existing SAP Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC) with dynamic, Attribute-Based Access Controls (ABAC) to strengthen authentication and authorization. Both RBAC and ABAC are ways that organizations can control authentication and authorization, but they perform different functions across an enterprise IT stack. 

Understanding SAP Access Control Using Roles

Functionally, a role is a collection of permissions using sets, relations, and mapping that align access needs to resources based and limit access on a “need to know” basis.

RBAC involves three basic principles:

  1. Role assignment: Only users with the right login can gain access to and interact with a system or application.
  2. Role authorization: When combined with role assignment, administrators authorize a set of credentials that can gain access to and interact with a system.
  3. Transaction authorization: A user can only interact with a resource to which she is authorized through her role memberships while also limited on a “need to know basis.”

RBAC has since evolved to include “hierarchies.” Hierarchies assign different roles different levels of access. For example, a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) needs to have a lot of access to sensitive information. Therefore, the CEO role has access that also encompasses the type of access provided to the Vice President’s, line of business managers, and standard employees. However, since a standard employee is at the “bottom” of the hierarchy, RBAC prevents her from accessing the sensitive information that the CEO can access.

Enhancing RBAC by Using Dynamic Authorizations in SAP

RBAC provides a strong foundation for setting access controls. However, digital transformation changes the way people interact with data resources. Since RBAC was intended for on-premises data repositories, it creates a very strict, static set of permissions. You either have access or you don’t. 

Dynamic authorization – also known as attribute-based access controls (ABAC) – enhances RBAC by taking into account different “attributes.” Attributes are the adjectives of the access control world because they incorporate an additional description of either the user or resource.

Examples of user attributes:

  1. Department within the organization
  2. Management level
  3. Citizenship / Residency
  4. Security Clearance

Examples of action attributes: 

  1. Read
  2. Write
  3. Transfer (money)

Examples of resource attributes:

  1. Data Classification
  2. Transaction Code
  3. Document Number
  4. Plant Code

Example of environment attributes:

  1. Time
  2. Geographic location
  3. Device type
  4. Connection type

By incorporating these attributes, organizations can control user access more precisely, and with the flexibility of dynamic authorizations, better balance business and security requirements.

Achieving Dynamic Access by Using Attributes

Roles act as the foundation for providing access. If you think about it like a sentence, RBAC is the subject and verb. An IT admin has what we call “superuser” access. A simple RBAC sentence might look like this:

IT administrators can read and edit all information. 

Based on RBAC, this sentence provides so much access that an IT administrator could be a data breach risk. Whether maliciously stealing sensitive information or accidentally sharing private information, the unrestricted access means organizations struggle to restrict IT administrator access while still providing enough access for the employee to do their job. 

However, if we add attributes, or additional descriptors about how/when/where IT administrators can use their access, we limit the risk. By creating an “if-then” statement, we apply restrictions based on the defined characteristics. 

If IT administrators are accessing the database (resource attribute)
from their homes (environment attribute) then
they can read (action attribute) the information. 

By adding these attributes, we can prevent IT administrators from making changes to databases while they are at home. 

Furthermore, we can use attributes to grant access as well. Taking the same statement, let’s incorporate time of day as an additional attribute. 

If IT administrators are accessing the database (resource attribute)
from their homes (environment attribute) then
they can read (action attribute) the information,
but if they access the database
between 8 AM and 10 AM (environment attribute 2),
they can edit user data (action attribute 2)

By adding the additional environment and action attributes, you’re creating a scenario that allows IT administrators to work from home while also reducing the risk. You have created a time-bound restriction that requires them to only make user data changes during the hours of 8 AM and 10 AM if they are at home while at all other times, they can only read the database information. 

The more attributes you can incorporate, the more precisely you can define what, how, and when a user or group of users can access data. 

Creating a Robust Data Security Strategy Using a Hybrid SAP Access Control Model

As organizations accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and allow more remote access to data and transactions, they need a way to configure a layered defense using a hybrid approach to SAP access control. Starting with RBAC, organizations set the foundation of their access policies. However, by incorporating different attributes such as user, resource, action, and environment characteristics, you can more appropriately limit access to and within your SAP data.

Without a solution like Appsian, the closest and organization can come to granting dynamic access to SAP is through customization or adding roles to a user for each attribute. Both options are costly and ultimately unmanageable in the long run.

Contact us to learn how Appsian can help you extend and enhance your existing SAP access controls and improve your reporting and auditing capabilities.

Stay Updated

Analytics, Security

How Does Appsian Work with SAP GRC Access Control?

By Rajesh Rengarethinam • August 20, 2020

At the SAPinsider 2020 virtual conference experience, one of our product demo attendees asked how Appsian works with SAP GRC Access Control. We get this question a lot as SAP security and system professionals explore adding attribute-based access controls (ABAC) to the native SAP role-based access controls (RBAC) to streamline and strengthen access policy management and enforcement. Sometimes there is confusion about whether ABAC is enhancing or replacing their RBAC. Let’s take a quick look at how Appsian’s ABAC works with and enhances SAP GRC Access Control.  

What is SAP GRC Access Control 

Organizations use SAP Governance, Risk, and Compliance (SAP GRC) to manage regulations and compliance and remove any risk in managing critical operations. One of the SAP GRC modules that helps organizations meet data security and authorization standards is SAP GRC Access Control. This module ensures that the right access is given to the right people with RBAC. It uses templates and workflow-driven access requests and approvals to streamline the process of managing and validating user access and provisioning. Without SAP GRC, for comparison, a person is creating all the roles from scratch and assigning privileges to them.

Appsian Enhances SAP GRC with Attribute-Based Access Controls 

Appsian combines the SAP GRC role-based access controls with an attribute-based access control solution that delivers an ABAC + RBAC hybrid approach. This enhanced approach enables granular control and visibility that delivers a wide range of business benefits and lets you deploy data-centric security policies that leverage the context of access to reduce risk.  

Appsian overcomes the limitations of traditional RBAC, allowing you to fully align SAP security policies with the objectives of your business and streamline audits and compliance. 

As you can see in this illustration, ABAC begins the moment users start to access data and transactions. Where RBAC assigns access based specific roles, ABAC considers the context of access (who, what, where, when, and how) before allowing access to transactions or data. Customers can set up additional rules that allow conditional access, for example, masking specific data fields or limiting the number of transactions after a particular time of day) or entirely denying access based on factors such as an unknown IP address. 

Real-Time Analytics for SAP Security & Risk Management 

With Appsian360, our real-time analytics and reporting tool, Appsian can enhance the SAP GRC reporting capabilities with direct, real-time visibility into transaction usage, violations, and compliance risk. Additionally, customers can: 

  1. Monitor transaction usage, master data changes, and SoD violations 
  2. View actual SoD violations with user, data, and transaction correlation 
  3. Segment reports by user/data attributes 
  4. Drill down into end-user usage events 

Appsian360 provides analytical reports to drill down into end-user usage events to capture business risks and anomalies, and usage events that tie back to compliance risks.  

The ABAC + RBAC Hybrid Approach to SAP GRC Access Control 

By combining data-centric security capabilities with attribute-based policies, Appsian extends and enhances the existing SAP GRC internal access controls and improves the reporting and auditing capabilities. 

Contact us today and schedule a demo to see how Appsian can help you enforce access controls beyond the standard RBAC model of SAP. 

Stay Updated

Request a Demo