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Author's profile photo Caroline Oakes

Improving SAP System Security With Proper Authorization

User authorization forms the core of any enterprise data management suite. SAP’s access control determines who can do what on the installation. A company must understand the differences between authorization and authentication before discussing the former. Authentication is the credentials a user requires to gain access to the system. In essence, it’s their username and password combination. Authorization is the level of access granted to such a user based on their user group. So, for example, a user that works with the finance department would have less authorization for using systems that deal with logistics, for example. Thus, a user may be able to log in to the SAP system using their credentials but still be unable to access any protocols based on those credentials having no authorization.

User Access Through Credentials

So how does a user access the SAP backend? Employees can obtain user IDs from the system administrator, which they can use to log in. The administrator must also assign those user IDs to user groups. But what delineates a particular authorization level? Each company is different in the location, access level, departments, and other factors that influence what user groups the administrator defines. Manual user group definition used to be the norm, but that has changed thanks to automation technology. Tools now allow administrators to automate how they assign user roles and which users fit into those roles depending on the user ID’s criteria.

Good Authorization Practices are Necessary

Businesses know how important it is to protect sensitive information from malicious users. SAP authorizations are a vital part of the security ecosystem that enables companies to keep their local and cloud data safe. Since most businesses invest a lot of money into their security architecture, the easiest method of breaching systems is by figuring out user credentials. That’s why enterprises advise their employees on proper password etiquette.

Authorization is the central pin that holds the entire enterprise security architecture together. System administrators must determine each user ID’s access level based on their needs. From the IDs, admins can build roles that define and correspond to each type of user. They can even progress to generating profiles that other departments can use to help define those roles. Authorization issues may sometimes arise, typically because of overlapping roles. Tracing these authorization issues can allow an administrator to determine where the errors happened and how to resolve them.

Sustainable Authorization

As any system admin that runs an SAP server understands, not all authorization is sustainable. There are a lot of edge-case rules that apply to IDs. In the past, in older versions of SAP, these jury-rigged authorizations would allow users access to the transactions they needed. However, with each new update, the system would require a complete retooling, with rules being reassigned and updated to meet the new system’s requirements.

Sustainable authorization allows businesses to develop those rules to incorporate edge-cases so that roles are future-compatible. SAP Access Control and SAP Cloud Identity Access Governance are great tools that allow admins to future-proof their authorizations. These tools also will enable the business to securely authorize users on a technical level to keep the business’s core components safe. The interactivity between systems and applications can be leveraged to gain access to sensitive data, and these authorization tools limit that accessibility, even with proper credentials.

Authorization Migration

How do you migrate users from one system to another? As mentioned before, with so many edge-cases on a particular scenario, it can be a headache to try migrating users from one installation to another. Even if the business does a greenfield upgrade to a new SAP system, user accounts will also need to be migrated to the new system. Migration to a new installation requires a solid grasp of the basics, the technical foundation of the authorization process, the architecture and how authorization plays a role in accessing data, and finally, how to conceptualize that accessibility.

SAP tools can perform some of the heavy lifting for a business, but third-party tools are a must to migrate hundreds of records. With those tools, you can set up a methodology to work out the structure of the records you’re migrating and test them to ensure nothing is “lost in translation.” Testing is crucial to any migration since it ensures that users maintain access privileges when logging in to the new system. The hardest part of a migration is ensuring those privileges (the core authorizations) persist into the new installation.

How To Achieve Migration To This Level

Authorization traces can be performed through SAP Fiori. Additionally, you can check out the book “Authorizations in SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori,” which outlines many of the details about migration, authorizations, and access permissions. Finally, accessing the SAP knowledgebase will help shore up any problems you may have with keeping your authorization systems intact through a migration and setting them up correctly the first time around.

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