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Author's profile photo Allan Bird

How To Approach SAP Security In An Age Of Uncertainty

The news is always filled with reports of security breaches. Social media networks are the most notorious culprits for spreading around their user data across the internet. However, they aren’t the only ones. From hotel chains to graphic design businesses, there is no lack of reports of user data being leaked on the internet. For now, SAP businesses haven’t had their databases broken into, but the arms race against nefarious actors isn’t slowing anytime soon. In such an uncertain world, how can businesses try to secure their sensitive data on SAP from malicious actors?

Controlling Access through Management Practices

Access control requires a lot of different systems working in tandem to succeed. Within an SAP environment, a few practices stand out as industry-standard, including:

  •         Role Groups: Developing role-based groups within the larger user group helps administrators determine what level of access privileges users are allowed to have. This implementation limits the access to sensitive data to those who have priority on the system. It also limits access to data the culprits have in case a breach does occur.
  •         Provisioning: By monitoring the data that users access, security teams can ensure enterprise resource security. Accessing records would require an employee ID number tied to the access so that each request or transaction can be traced back to an individual.
  •         Single-Sign-On (SSO): SSO functionality is a simplified access system, removing the need for multiple logins and boiling it down to a single set of credentials to be used across all the company’s operations. It keeps user data safe and allows security to monitor when credentials are used to access which data.
  •         Segregation of Duties: Lower levels of employees only have access to lower levels of data. Utilizing this system limits trusted access to the majority of the company’s data to a handful of privileged users. In the case of a user’s account being compromised, a malicious actor would only have access to the lower levels of data.

These measures require support from SAP to enable them to function correctly. These necessary supporting technologies include communication security for both internal and external communication, authentication methods, and increased database security. The balance among what users get access to which levels of data will hinge on whether those users require the data to proceed with their work.

Security Patches to the SAP System

SAP typically releases its latest security patches on the second Tuesday of each month. These patches should be added to user systems as soon as possible to ensure that their security methods block the most recent exploits to the SAP system. It is important to remember that SAP patching is not a one-time operation, but continues throughout the life cycle of the software. The complex systems withing SAP may display some vulnerabilities that require SAP to release specific patches to deal with a particular problem. If a business fails to implement patches promptly, they open themselves up to potential cyberattacks.

Dealing with Vulnerabilities

Many businesses swear by SAP’s security system. However, an SAP install is only as secure as the installation, and configuration makes them. Faulty installation or misconfiguration can open the doors up for potential breaches. With each external system (like IoT or other third-party interfaces) added to SAP, the area of attack also increases. Managing these vulnerabilities is an essential and necessary step in ensuring that a business’s SAP install remains watertight. Keeping SAP up to date isn’t the only way a business needs to deal with potential security issues. Internal security protocols should be examined regularly and suggestions made for their improvement. The only way to remain ahead of the problem and respond to it quickly and efficiently is the constant monitoring of a company’s systems.

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      Author's profile photo Marco Hammel
      Marco Hammel

      Hi Allan,
      Thanks for helping to increase awareness of the topic of SAP application security!

      There is one thing I found very important to correct and add. SAP running businesses have had been broken into and by evidence throughout the application layer. There are maybe only a few popular like the USIS attack in 2013 or the infamous breaches of the greek ministry of finance, and Nvidia. Not to mention the black number, as well as the forensic projects I know and participated of incidents which didn't went public.

      By my experience, most important is that informations security, SAP application management, and internal audit/risk strenghten their collaboration to protect their most valuable digital assest, mostly SAP. If SAP technology does not become part of the overall cyber security strategy of an organization I predict these organizations have to surender to cybercrime.