ERP Security: How to Secure an ERP System

Last Updated: October 20th, 2023
Researched and Written by: Lexi Wood

While enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provides many useful benefits to workplaces of every size across every industry, these systems can open up your company to cyber threats like data breaches.

How to Secure an ERP System

To optimize your online safety and reduce system vulnerability, consider these 7 cybersecurity best practices to secure your ERP:

  1. Control User Access
  2. Use Employee Knowledge
  3. Talk to Experts
  4. Regular Updates and Support
  5. Ground the Cloud
  6. Balance Complexity
  7. Remain Compliant

7 ERP Security Best Practices

1 Control User Access

Human error can lead to security risks even if you have the best ERP on the market. In 2014, a 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. Human error will, unfortunately, always play a part in ERP security. Before implementing a new ERP system, the best solution is thorough training of all users to ensure they understand the potential risks whenever they access the network.

One key security feature offered by ERP systems to combat this is role-based access control (RBAC). This limits what different users access 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

While employees can be a liability of human error, 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. Checking in with the dev team might reveal an unconventional account code structure which might become a liability when integrated with a new software.

3 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’s 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 for you. They can 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.

4 Regular Updates and Support

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.

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, check out the vendor’s listed support hours and what channels of communication are available. You might even consider having an internal security team dedicated to running checks on your software.

5 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.

A variety of security measures like 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. And regular data backups can help you restore service in the event of interruptions.

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

6 Balance Complexity

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.

Every time you bring in a new software, you create potential openings in your network for hackers. The more complex your ERP system, the more potential security issues there are. Too much data can overload the system. In order to reduce risk, you must plan ahead for how your software will scale to prevent future risks.

7 Remain Compliant

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.

Regulatory requirements an ERP might need to cover include:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Can ERP Systems be Hacked?

As discussed, ERP systems can be hacked due to a lack of security, DoS attacks, or plan human error. Following the above best practices can reduce the possibility of your ERP being hacked.

How Can an ERP System Help with Security?

AN ERP system can help with a company’s overall security by keeping all data protected behind firewalls and VPNs. Utilizing an on-premise system or private cloud can increase your cybersecurity. And keeping data backups on your ERP can help you recover faster.

By adopting a handful of ERP security best practices, you can avoid making the wrong choice when selecting software for your business. Learn what 8 experts say on security and encryption.

ERP Software Security
Secure your ERP system with 7 simple tips.
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