ERP Security: 7 Best Practices to Protect Your Software

Last Updated: September 14th, 2022
Researched and Written by: Adam Bluemner

There’s no denying enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provides many useful benefits to workplaces of every size across every industry. With an ERP, you can automate backend processes to streamline day-to-day operations in every department from accounting to human resources. Yet can these incredibly popular software suites actually put your business at risk?

With many companies relying more and more on Internet-based transactions and communication, the importance of ERP security cannot be overstated. Growing cyber threats have left companies in fear of hackers with malware and ransomware. Data breaches can be used against your company, clients, and suppliers. Downtime from minor service interruptions can lead to costly losses. And those risks are only going to grow as more and more businesses utilize online functionality.

Why are ERP systems such popular targets? Because they offer a full suite of business applications, meaning all your most important data is stored in one place. It’s understandably irresistible to cybercriminals.

How can you get the best out of an ERP system without jeopardizing your business? In this list we’re sharing the best practices necessary to avoid putting yourself at risk. For a quick self-check on optimizing your online safety and reducing system vulnerability, consider the 7 following cybersecurity tips before selecting an ERP for your business:

1. Consider the Liability of Real Users

Did you know a 2014 survey found 87% of senior managers compromised company security by using personal accounts? Logging in isn’t the only vulnerability: phishing attacks can quickly spread if even one person opens a suspicious email or clicks an unsecure link. Human error will, unfortunately, always play a part in ERP security. Before implementing a new system at your company, you need to consider if your employees, from top executives to new hires, will need any security training.

Example: A manager might log into their personal account when on a company computer in order to check emails. If their personal account is ever compromised, it can provide hackers a way into your company’s network to initiate future cyber attacks. When implementing an ERP, you might take advantage of the training period to provide additional reminders to all users not to use their work computer or the company WiFi network to complete personal business.

One key security feature offered by ERP systems comes in the form of Role-Based Access Control or RBAC. This limits the access of different users based on their roles within the company, such as management positions or departments. Another option is to implement Separation of Duties (SoD), in which all transactions require multi-factor authentication to confirm.

Graphic Showing Cybersecurity Statistics
Uploading work files to a personal email account can put your ERP software at risk.

2. Use Employee Knowledge to Your Advantage

While employees can be a liability, they can also offer security solutions. After all, your employees know best what works and what doesn’t in your day-to-day operations. Enlist these users to get their input on important issues, including security.

Consulting with users may take additional time, but it’s well-spent if you can identify potential security concerns in advance.

Example: By speaking to your HR team, you might learn you’ll need an ERP solution that integrates with a particular payroll processing service. Otherwise, your payroll process might be left vulnerable after the transition. Checking in with the dev team might reveal you are using an unconventional account code structure which might become a liability when integrated with a new software.

Other company-specific requirements might limit your selection of ERP solutions. If you go through the process of implementing software by first consulting your main users, you can avoid wasting time and money on the wrong solution.

3. Consider Scalability Now

As your company expands, so will your software needs. And growth spurts are known to be painful, and expensive in the world of business. If you anticipate a lot of growth, especially in a short timeframe, you’ll need to take that into consideration before you select an ERP. Otherwise, you might be stuck with a system which is too small and have to start the search all over again. Scaling software can keep up with your expanding operations so you don’t have to start looking for new software in too short a timeframe.

Why does this matter? Other than convenience, every time you bring in a new software, you create potential openings in your network for hackers. In order to reduce risk, you must plan for tomorrow as well as today. Otherwise, you can jeopardize system security as you switch between software interfaces over and over.

4. Talk to Experts

Most companies only need to buy or subscribe to a new ERP after significant growth, budget changes, or other factors. Some businesses have gone decades with the same legacy ERP system. When it does come time to find something new, there can be a lot of questions about how to do it affordably, efficiently, and safely.

Fortunately, ERP vendors can answer those questions to help you find the right solution for your needs. They can also assist with securing your new system, whether that’s through installing new servers, utilizing permissions to access the operating system, or providing thorough risk identification and mitigation training to your employees. They may even offer customized modules to fit your security policies.

Tip: Depending on your company’s strengths, you might require extra assistance. Needs analysis consultants can help with requirements discovery and documentation. Software match services like this one can provide a set of options matched to your specific needs. Solution providers offer full service project planning, implementation, training, and support services.

Does your business depend on sensitive data? Learn what 8 experts say on security and encryption.

5. Request Customer Support

The majority of business purchases don’t require much in the way of support. Then there’s software. Updates, glitches, server errors, all of these things can cause your business to suffer setbacks. You’re going to run into support issues with whatever program you choose. And each can make your business vulnerable. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. Fortunately, many ERP vendors offer free support to their users. Others provide limited support based on your monthly subscription plan.

Tip: In order to figure the quality of support you’re likely to receive, there’s a few things you can do, including considering the quality of the technical documentation, exploring authentication, user groups, checking support hours and which channels are available, and asking providers who will provide the support when issues arise.

6. Ground the Cloud

Most ERPs systems are now available on cloud-hosted platforms. While this means instant and automatic software updates, along with access anywhere, being always online can put your network at risk to savvy cybercriminals. And if you don’t have an on-premise backup, a denial of service attack (DoS) can down your entire company.

There are further complications from cloud-based ERP, mainly because you cannot control where or when your users access the system.

Example: A hiring manager updates job postings on the company website and on a third-party listing site. If they have a cloud-based ERP, they can modify a listing while working remotely after interviewing a candidate. However, there is a chance their personal internet connection or mobile device might not be secure, especially when accessing the third-party site through their company account.

Fortunately, security measures can ensure any approved users accessing your company system remain secure. Firewalls and VPNs can keep your cloud secure. You can also see if the ERP vendor can provide a private cloud for your system to increase your readiness against cybersecurity threats.

Personal Computer Statistics
Remote workers prefer their work computers, even though it can lead to security risks.

7. Balance Complexity

Implementing software and apps, installing hardware, and offering employee training can cause even the most basic ERP systems to cost hundreds or millions of dollars. And the larger your company, the more complex your ERP system will be. This can lead to potential security issues as varying users all try to use the software for different functions. As mentioned before with human error, simply having a lot of simultaneous users can sometimes push your system to the limit.

In addition to downtime from users, you can put yourself at risk by overloading your ERP with too much data. While you may want to digitize old documents for long-term storage, you should make sure you’re not holding on to unnecessary business data which can slow down your internet response times.

Common ERP Security Issues

Adding any software to your company can lead to potential vulnerabilities. In fact, just having any of your business processes online opens you up to risk. By following the above best practices, you can avoid some of the main security issues presented by an ERP. You might even consider having a security team dedicated to running checks on your software. However, there are a few additional problems to keep in mind:

Compliance

Depending on your industry, your organization’s ERP might have to comply with federal or international security standards. For instance, financial institutions need to be compliant with banking regulations. eCommerce companies need to be compliant with different credit card payment processors.

Updates

Automatic updates can keep your ERP operating at peak capability. However, missed updates can actually leave you vulnerable. Even a short delay, such as waiting a few hours to finish compiling data, can make your system a target. Many standard updates from vendors are aimed at improving security and patching up potential weaknesses.

User Error

It’s worth mentioning again: human error can lead to security risks even if you have the best ERP on the market. As described above, the best solution is thorough training of all users to ensure they understand the potential risks they’re exposing the company to whenever they access the network.

ERP Software Security
Secure your ERP system with the above tips.

By adopting a handful of ERP security best practices, you can avoid making the wrong choice when selecting software for your business.

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