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Author's profile photo Maya Chowdhury

The Problem With Zero Trust In SAP Systems

SAP systems are some of the most secure on the planet. However, with the recent SAP-to-non-SAP integrations, weak points emerge where those systems are linked together. Interconnection has historically been a tricky thing to get right. For SAP-to-non-SAP connections, no matter how much security the enterprise introduces, there will always be vulnerabilities to patch out. From an administration perspective, the only way to ensure safety across the enterprise is via zero trust systems. Zero trust systems operate on the premise that no user is to be trusted unless otherwise validated. This means that even accounts on managed devices need further authentication and validation before the system trusts them.

The most pervasive issue is combining on-premise systems with cloud processing systems. Cloud security utilizes a different level of access permissions than on-premise security. In many cases, a business running an SAP on-premise solution might consider migrating to the cloud only to realize all their cybersecurity allowances may need to change. The system is further taxes when using SAP-to-non-SAP integrations, as these could create chinks in an enterprise’s cybersecurity armor that can be exploited. Zero trust systems are a way to deal with this, but they also have drawbacks, as discussed later.

No Trust For Good Reason

Cybersecurity experts agree that most enterprise security breaches stem from user data theft. Compromised credentials can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, in most cases, the security team only realizes that the credentials were compromised many months after the fact. Some businesses get around this by building a timed system for password changes. In such a system, a user’s password automatically expires after a certain amount of time, prompting them to change it and locking out those who may have gotten the compromised authentication details. However, because of how fast-paced systems are today, it’s already too late to prevent data theft or the installation of malware on systems. More often than not, the compromised user may have loggers installed on their system that allows a malicious user to obtain the new password as they change it, defeating the system.

Zero Trust Systems address this issue at its core. Since no user is to be trusted in finance, all validation must be done multiple times. Just because a user has the correct password and authentication details doesn’t necessarily make them trustworthy. In these systems, there’s a continuous circulation of data. Access privileges change based on the user’s group, and it’s much easier to spot malicious activities belonging to a particular account. Dynamic security permissions are crucial indicators of these systems since it’s tedious to apply group permissions on every subset of a growing system. As the enterprise expands and its systems become more complex, security teams, who face corporate investigations, would be hard-pressed to manage each user group individually. Tracking malicious use from a user in such a web of data would be nigh impossible.

Risk and Compliance

From all of these potential issues, it’s clear that the architecture or infrastructure team members need to make security part of their knowledge. To make things easier, IT companies typically want to use a single security policy across their on-premise and cloud installations as far as possible. This makes it much easier for the company when audits or compliance issues arise. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to build a cloud level of security into an on-premise install. The complexity of the challenge becomes more ingrained the larger the organization is and the more stakeholders that it impacts.

How to Address Zero Trust Issues

A complete zero trust system relies heavily on further authentication, potentially from a third party or hardware source. Yet even here, there are issues to deal with. There are a few essential things to look at for companies that need to deal with their security to combine their on-premise and cloud installations. Firstly, the bridge between SAP and non-SAP systems needs to be secured, as this is typically the weakest link for security programs. Architecture and infrastructure teams must be trained in risk and compliance and integrate them into their potential solutions. Zero trust systems only work if it’s built into the core of the system’s infrastructure, so all considerations should consider this as the system grows and evolves. Leveraging a unified platform approach utilizing a trusted partner that understands SAP security is the best option for these businesses.

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