Want to Secure Your ERP System? Looking into the vulnerabilities could be crucial to find the solutions

April 30, 2021 by
Want to Secure Your ERP System? Looking into the vulnerabilities could be crucial to find the solutions
Ahad Mahmud
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                    ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is seen as a hub of a business. It runs all the business functions, including sales, inventory, human resources, with its centralized functionality. 

                    An ERP software holds different types of crucial and confidential information related to your business. This confidential information can include client information and credit card details, supplier bank detail, payment information, and even your projects and financial plans.  So, your ERP software is a lucrative target for attackers or intruders when it comes to cybersecurity concerns. You can ask why? The answer is that if the intruders can get access to a single application of your ERP system, they may be able to take full control of your system. An attack can result in data breaches, project delays, negativity on brand image.

                    Onapsis, USA, a provider of ERP security technology and engaged in research to identify the ERP vulnerabilities, has reported a 13 years old vulnerability in SAP that could result in devastating cyber-attacks. Perez-Etchegoyen, CTO of Onapsis, states that when it comes to ERP breaches, two things should be considered: How the threat actor got access to the system and what they can do after accessing. So, the two main concerns are the software vulnerabilities of the ERP system and the access control inside the system. 

                    Below are a few vulnerabilities and threats of an ERP system, and how you can avoid those are discussed, keeping above mentioned two concerns in mind.

                    Outdated and Unpatched Software:

                    If the vendor does not currently support your ERP software, it could be the most significant security concern for your entire system. The vendor is not looking after the software in terms of vulnerabilities discovery and fix them. So, hackers can take this advantage to break your ERP system security. Even not applying a few minor upgrades made by your vendor can put you at risk concerning security since the experts found the updates needed for your ERP.

                    Also, not applying patches immediately and regularly can make your ERP software vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Proper patch management helps you fix your ERP software's exposures, ensuring the software and the applications are upgraded and running efficiently. Even your operating system (OS) needs to be correctly patched since a vulnerable OS can bring threats to your ERP. You might remember the WannaCry ransomware attack around the world in 2017.  A Reuters report shows that more than 67% of the computer systems affected by the WannaCry ransomware were Windows 7, which was considered an outdated system during the attacks.


                    Before you hear from cybercriminals, you should watch and take preventative steps against your software vulnerabilities.

                    • Install updates and deploy patches to your software and systems as soon as they are available from your vendor

                    • Finding the responsible person for your software upgrade and system patches is essential. Find out in the ERP contract who is responsible for the tasks that will help you track their activity regarding updates and patches. It might be your software vendor or your IT team.

                    • Ask your ERP software vendor for the checklist of required updates and patches regularly. Most vendors send emails to their clients with a checklist when any updates or patches are needed. If your vendor does not have the same, you should ask.

                    • You must set a schedule for your software updates, system patches so that those can be deployed in a timely manner. If you are not confident about maintaining a schedule, it might be worth looking into set an automatic update.

                    • Never delay in deploying any security-related patches.

                    Poor configuration:

                    The poor configuration can be called an implementation gap, which is a result of a lack of awareness. The ERP configuration and implementation procedures can be complex and time-consuming, but any negligence towards security issues can negatively impact your business. Any open port, wrong customization, improper credentials are examples of the poor configuration.


                    Unlike other software, your ERP system's performances depend on the configuration. So, you can not rush in terms of configuration. To get strengthen your ERP configuration You must- 

                    • Schedule sufficient time for configuration, implementation as per your ERP size.

                    • Test your configuration multiple times since it is challenging to achieve the perfect ERP system configuration in one attempt.

                    • Observe the excellent communication flow between your consultants and the technical team to acquire a complete configuration and implementation with no missing steps. A proper communication process will provide a better understanding of the aspect of hypothetical and practical conditions of your ERP configuration.

                    • Double-check your custom code (what you build as per your business needs) if any bugs or other vulnerabilities still exist.

                    Using unauthorized systems:

                    Integration is one of the attractive features of a modern ERP system. Your enterprise software allows you to incorporate other systems, platforms, applications into your business system. This advantage of the ERP system can raise many vulnerabilities to bring risks. Here is a scenario to make it clearer: suppose you maintain your sales data on ERP and create reports using the 'X' application. Both applications are suitable in terms of security. So, what are the vulnerabilities in this procedure? Hackers can capture your data during the transfer time between the ERP and the Non-EREP X applications.  The integration can be riskier if you are not sure about the encryption system of the non-ERP applications you are using. 

                    Software Advice, USA (an advisory company) states in one of their blogs, storing your business data on multiple platforms increases more vulnerabilities.  Also, you will require extra resources to protect tour data on various platforms.


                    We have discussed many vulnerabilities and risks of using external and non-ERP applications. It does not mean that you can not use any other platform as per your business needs. If you have to use external and non-ERP software, you have to maintain few basic standards. A few of those are listed below:

                    • Limit the use of non-ERP applications unless you are required.

                    • Look into avoiding any data import/export if it is not compulsory.

                    • The best practice is to store all your business data within an on-premise ERP system and perform backups on a regular basis. It may not protect you from data breaches, but at least you can retrieve your data quickly.

                    • If you are required to use any non-ERP software or third-party apps, you must check the compatibility and suitability for encryption concerning the data transferring process.

                    Weak Access Control Policy: 

                    Suppose you have deployed your enterprise software behind a firewall with a series of complex rules to restrict external access and using the default access policy for internal access control. Do you think your system is safe from intruders? No. I will not say that you have to treat your internal employees as your enemy, but professionalism to control your internal access rights is always wise. It is not wise to provide access right to your programmer into your company salary sheet.


                    The first and foremost rule does not follow any default access control policy to provide access rights. Here are some points you should practice-

                    • Divide your access rights into different categories and decide who should have access to the only view, which employees should have view and edit rights, and who has the permission to make changes in the system. The access permissions must be given based on actual needs as per your business processes. This categorization will help you to set liabilities among your internal staff.

                    • You should maintain audit logs to track the activities of internal users in your ERP system. The best practice is to encrypt your audit logs so that no one can manipulate them.

                    • Using a single password policy for internal access still making your system vulnerable. A single password can be stolen or guesses by another staff.  You must include Two-factor authentication (2FA) in your internal access control policy.

                    Blind trust on Third-party for cloud hosting:

                    Cloud hosting has become popular as it increases your ERP system's mobility and makes it accessible from anywhere, lowers upfront investment costs, automates software updates, reduces your dependence on internal IT resources, and provides so on advantages. After all, if you choose cloud hosting, you have to hand over all of your ERP security to someone else. 


                    Before choosing any cloud provider for your ERP, you must consider-

                    • Double-check the security policy and compliances of your cloud provider. Confirm that anyone rather than your company can not see your data. Even your cloud provider is not allowed to access your data.

                    • Make sure your data is stored in a safe location concerning weather, environmental conditions.

                    • Know the disaster recovery plan of your vendor. A good ERP vendor should have a strategy to provide policies, tools, and procedures to retrieve your data in the event of significant disruption.

                    Inadequate training for your ERP system users:

                    If your employees do not have proper training on using enterprise software, they are vulnerable to the entire system. Lack of understanding of the ERP system can compromise password policy, phishing attacks, and ransomware files. Any silly mistake can put your crucial data at risk.

                    The following image represents a case study on how easily a Ransomware attack can occur through an employee's action.

                    Image: A screenshot from ACSC THREAT REPORT-2016

                    Even your external stakeholders such as vendors, clients, contractors can be threat actors if they do not follow the security standard, including login procedures and password policy. 


                    • Ask your ERP vendor to provide proper training to your internal employees who have access rights to your ERP system. From top to bottom, everyone needs to be included in the training plan.

                    • Maintain a logbook to track your employees' training sessions on ERP. 

                    • The training should be a continuous process. You must provide brief updates on your ERP so that they have a concern about it.

                    • Provide the procedural documents on your ERP security standard to you external stakeholders such as vendors, clients, contractor so that they can practice those. 

                    Let's recap! Your ERP system deserves extra attention since it holds all your crucial business data in a single platform. If somehow you lose control over your ERP system, your entire business or business processes can be disrupted by the unauthorized individual(s). On the other hand, maintaining a secure ERP system and ensuring data integrity help you make more trustworthy to your stakeholders. Also, having compliance such as data encryption, firewall, strong password policy and backups in your system with regulatory standards can protect your business from several legal issues. So, your ERP users should know the updates on ERP vulnerabilities, risks, and solutions to take necessary actions.


                    About us:

                    Ahad Mahmud, Business Analyst

                    Ahad is an IT- Business Analyst at High Tech Masterminds. He strives to create informative, well-researched, digital content. He is often designing and developing course contents and materials to assist customers in Odoo ERP implementation. He has 3+ years of experience in evaluating stories, shaping content, and accelerating overall work quality in electronic media.

                    LinkedIn Profile |  Ahad

                    High Tech Masterminds Pty Ltd is an Official Odoo partner in Australia. We believe that every manufacturing business can benefit from modern information systems and digital technology in its digital transformation journey. You can book a free consultation session today with one of our experienced consultants (No salesperson!) to talk about how digital technology can help you scale up.

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                    Want to Secure Your ERP System? Looking into the vulnerabilities could be crucial to find the solutions
                    Ahad Mahmud April 30, 2021
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