Is your ERP system fully protected against cyber attacks?
ERP systems are critical business tools in the modern digital age, however, with the increase of digitisation comes the associated threat of cyber attacks. This is a look at the possible threats to ERP systems and how they can be addressed.
What are ERP systems?
Enterprise Resource Planning – or ERP as it’s known – is the integration and automation of business functionality for improved chances of success. ERP systems consist of business software designed to record and manage all business-related data, which could include customer orders, inventories, and finances. The consolidation of this information allows for enhanced visibility, Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, and overall efficiency.
Threats of cyber attacks to ERP systems
As with all digitised processes, the threat of cybercrime is ever-present. Recently, two cyber-threat intelligence firms – Digital Shadows and Onapsis – conducted extensive research into ERP systems and identified a number of threats and vulnerabilities related to the systems. These threats have been considered significant enough for the United States Department of Homeland Security to issue a warning against cyber attacks on ERP systems. This particular report indicated a dramatic rise in cyber attacks on widely-used ERP systems, outlining around 9 000 known security vulnerabilities with the likelihood of cyber criminals targeting these systems.
What is the risk to businesses?
Potential cyber attacks on any business software are concerning, but really the biggest risk is limited knowledge or completely ignoring the risk. Businesses need to have a clear understanding of the cyber threat posed to ERP systems and take a proactive approach to deal with these vulnerabilities. Effectively, the threats to ERP systems include everything from espionage and sabotage to financial fraud.
How to protect your ERP system against cybercrime?
The risk of cyber attacks on ERP systems is undoubtedly real, but there are many ways for businesses to address the weaknesses and protect against potential cyber crimes. Here is a look at the steps companies should be taking:
1. Update ERP software
One of the biggest oversights for most businesses is delaying (or sometimes avoiding altogether) software updates when the notification is sent. The reason for these upgrades will be increased features, some of which will be security improvements such as critical security patches, to better protect ERP systems against cyber attacks. These security patches are developed when suppliers discover security breaches. Without these ERP software updates; ERP systems are under-protected and much more vulnerable to cybercrimes. Businesses must update software at the earliest convenience and communicate with suppliers to ensure the company is using the latest version. It’s also important to remember to install firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-malware software and keep this updated.
2. Get an ERP system administrator
The updating of ERP software can often be overlooked because nobody is actually in charge of monitoring this aspect of the business. This is particularly true of smaller organisations, however, by assigning the role of ERP system administrator (ideally to someone in the IT department) businesses should be able to keep on top of software updates and identifying any potential threats.
3. Conduct ERP system security audits
The ERP system administrator must be tasked with checking the system for cyber threats through regular audits. This will generally require manual testing but is an important measure in protecting against cyber crime.
4. Develop an ERP system recovery plan
While all actions can be taken to avoid a cyber attack on ERP systems, it is worth having a system recovery plan in place for worst-case scenarios. This means businesses need to outline a plan of action to retrieve business that is data crucial for day-to-day operations.
5. Put ERP system malware protections in place
Online activity can lead to malware such as phishing URLs with the intention to steal valuable personal information. ERP systems can be exposed to malicious attachments so it’s important that companies have updated malware protection.
6. Levelled control access to ERP systems
Not every person in a company will need complete access to ERP system applications, which is why businesses should provide levelled access to this data. This prevents the violation of any privacy laws – internal cyber crime – while also protecting against external cyber crime.
7. Put ERP system password policies in place
This levelled-access can be achieved by implementing passwords for the ERP system. Obviously, employees need to be thoroughly vetted and instructed on policies such as not sharing passwords, using more complex passwords and changing passwords.
8. Have encryption policies for remote workers
These ERP system password policies extend to remote workers which means encryption and VPN. There is even customised ERP software for enhanced security features for this sort of remote network.
9. Backup your data
Ensuring that routine backups are done on a regular basis is crucial to ensuring that the recovery time is much quicker and less painful in the event that a cyber-attack does occur.
Why mitigating cyber attacks is important
As mentioned at the start, ERP systems are hugely beneficial to companies which is why preventing cyber attacks is vital to optimum functioning. Some of the benefits of ERP systems include:
- Competitive advantage – although the threat of cyber attacks might make business owners concerned, the benefits of ERP systems in gaining competitive advantage make it worthwhile. Business error is minimised and benefits enhanced.
- Efficiency – ERP systems eliminate repetition in processes and data errors which means improved productivity.
- Business forecasting – ERP systems give a holistic overview allowing businesses to forecast accurately and decrease overall business costs.
- Improved collaboration – one of the biggest hurdles to business growth is a lack of inter-departmental communication and collaboration. ERP systems allow for real-time collaboration and data sharing.
- Scalability – ERP systems are able to adapt to the business needs, so as functions and users increase, ERP systems can facilitate these changes.
- Information integration – ERP systems centralise all business data which allows for easy access of vital information for all users. Because of data accuracy, users don’t need to worry that information is out-of-date.
- Better customer service – through ERP systems, employees are able to better engage with customers, improving relationships through access to accurate information and detailed customer history.
These are just some of the benefits of ERP systems to businesses across many industries. Ensuring these are fully protected against any cyber attacks will allow for enhanced functionality, productivity, and a boost in profits overall.