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Data security is a practice that involves protecting digital information from unauthorized access, corruption, modification, or theft throughout its entire lifecycle. There are three main tenants of security: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Data security strives to uphold these tenants by implementing policies, controls, and technologies to ensure that data is protected and accessed based on need and with the appropriate authorization.

When implemented correctly, data security protects an organization’s data from cyberattacks and from insider threats like malicious employees and unintentional data exposure. And with multiple regulatory compliance requirements coming into effect, data security also helps limit the exposure of data and implement the principle of least privilege by granting access only after the request can be verified.

ERP Data Security

ERP applications like SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle EBS, Microsoft Dynamics, etc., are vital to run critical business/operations. From HR to supply chain to finance, these ERP applications ensure efficient business operations by streamlining processes and help businesses run large-scale operations across multiple locations, connecting thousands of employees and third-party vendors from different geographic locations. Securing access to ERP applications and safeguarding the data stored within them is a crucial part of your overall data security strategy.

While ERP applications offer some degree of security controls, in many cases, these security controls lack granularity. Regulatory compliances like GDPR and CPRA demand data privacy requirements and multiple internal controls at the field, transaction, and master data levels that are nearly impossible to implement with native ERP security features.

Pathlock addresses these key ERP security challenges by enabling enterprises to manage user access to data with Attribute-Based Access Controls (ABAC). At the field level, sensitive data like PII is protected with Pathlock’s dynamic, policy-based data masking to limit exposure and meet compliance requirements. Together, these solutions enable enterprises to mitigate risk and implement zero-trust principles to secure sensitive data without affecting operational efficiency across the ERP ecosystem.

Why ERP Data Security is Important?

ERP data security too often gets thrown into the “non-essential” project pile, with companies considering it an afterthought, regardless of the economic climate. Afterthought might be too harsh – perhaps they consider what they already have in place as “good enough.” Essentially making the decision to go into completely unprecedented times with legacy technology. Such thinking will leave your data fully exposed to theft, fraud, and other forms of damage. Alas, if you don’t prepare for the future, then the future is likely to be your downfall. This is why we think NOW is the perfect time to make ERP data security a high-priority – dare we say essential – project. Here are five reasons why.

Your ERP Data Is Already Exposed

Just because your virtual front door is locked doesn’t mean there’s nobody in your house. Besides the fact that user credentials (including VPN credentials) are routinely stolen – insider threats are one of the fastest-growing trends in data breaches, accounting for 34% of attacks in 2019, according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report. In addition, many insider breaches occur simply by insiders unintentionally misusing data. Without proper data security and monitoring protocols in place, it’s difficult to know if users are leveraging their privilege to access sensitive information for either legitimate or malicious purposes.

Remote Access And Data Security Should Be Synonymous

A remote workforce is nothing new, but not to the scale caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The rapid scaling of remote access for critical business functions left many companies relying on conventional (but outdated) security technology, like a VPN. All the while, not considering that remote access means an expanded threat surface – and the wider your threat surface, the more exposed your data is to risk. A VPN may leave you feeling like you shrank your threat surface, but you haven’t truly shrunk your level of risk. Today, the most devastating data breaches happen when credentials are stolen and/or insiders leak/expose data. In a remote access environment, credential/insider risks go up dramatically while a VPN does little to mitigate.

When allowing remote access to your ERP data, you need to monitor a variety of data points, such as where is a user coming from? What data are they trying to access? What device are they using? Is that device being used by the right person? Cybercriminals know these systems are vulnerable and are stepping up attacks.

Data Security Is Not As Costly As A Data Breach

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach is $4 million. The average cost of a breach in the U.S. is $8.2 million – more than double the worldwide average.

The risks posed by a data breach extend well beyond financial. They are operational as well as compliance-related. Then there are the difficult to quantify costs, including negative exposure and scrutiny for your brand and senior leadership.

Compliance Stakes Have Never Been Higher

Compliance mandates like SOX, GDPR, CCPA, and others require organizations to maintain details regarding data access, and places a substantial liability when companies are not taking appropriate measures to secure ERP data. Fortunately, organizations can improve compliance by implementing data security tools that respond to insider threats, minimize direct damage caused by a breach, and reduce (or even void) penalties incurred by compromising customer data.

ERP Data Security Is A Manageable Problem

An essential project doesn’t mean it’s complicated or burdensome. In fact, this is one of the more manageable problems to solve, as adding data security doesn’t involve much change management – unlike a cloud migration project. The key is to NOT customize the application(s) but to seek solutions that are configurable. Customizations are not a quick fix – they are not scalable and place additional complexity on support down the line. Configurable solutions to these challenges do exist.

Types Of ERP Data

Many kinds of data are stored on or accessed through ERP applications, making them vulnerable to attacks, breaches, and insider threats. Also, data like customer PII and financial data are highly regulated. A breach could invite extensive scrutiny from external auditors, hefty fines and penalties, and cause a severe blow to your reputation. The major types of data that are stored in ERP applications include:

  • Sales Data
  • HR Data
  • Customer PII
  • Engineering Information
  • Intellectual Property
  • Financial Data

Risks To Data Security

Accidental Exposure

Employees and applications need to be able to access data for the business to function, but the big question is who gets access to what and how? Accidental exposure occurs when sensitive data is allowed to be accessed by employees without need or authorization, either by accident or lack of awareness of security policies. This risk can be mitigated by providing employee training and implementing better access controls.

Phishing and Other Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering is a type of cyberattack that uses manipulation to trick your employees into providing access to sensitive data. Phishing emails are one of the most commonly used tools to attack and compromise an organization’s system. The email or message often appears to be from a trusted source urging the receiver to take action by sharing credentials or clicking a link that can compromise the device and give the attacker access to the network.

Insider Threats

Insider threats are a growing category of threats that most organizations grapple to deal with. Insiders here refer to employees who become the source of the breach either intentionally or inadvertently. There are three types of insider threats:

  • Malicious insiders who intentionally attempt to steal data and wish to cause harm to the organization for personal gain.
  • Compromised insiders who are unaware that their device and credentials have been compromised and are being used to access or infiltrate data.
  • Non-malicious insiders who are employees who cause harm accidentally or because of their negligence.


Ransomware is a type of malware that infects corporate devices by encrypting all the data on the device. The only way to retrieve data is through a decryption key. Attackers usually make a ransom demand in exchange for the key. Ransomware is designed to spread rapidly across networked devices to render them inaccessible. The only way to overcome a ransomware attack without paying the attackers is by relying on backup servers.

Data Loss in the Cloud

Data loss in the cloud refers to losing control over the access and distribution of data that is in the cloud. With organizations adopting digital transformation, migrating applications and data to the cloud is inevitable. However, without proper security measures and access controls in place, data in the cloud could end up being accessed by unauthorized parties.

ERP Controls

Most large organizations rely heavily on ERP applications like SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle EBS, etc., to manage several business functions like supply chain, CRM, HCM, and Finance. These ERP applications house vast amounts of sensitive data that is vital for the business. Without the proper access controls in place, a compromised or malicious user could expose data or modify processes for personal gain.

Types Of Data Security Technologies

Data Masking

Data masking enables you to encrypt, obfuscate, scramble, or shuffle data to prevent access or limit exposure to sensitive data. The objective of data masking is to provide access to data based on business needs and ensure that the user meets all the authorization criteria necessary to access the data. With data masking, organizations can retain the integrity of the original data while providing a functional alternative that does not impact business operations.

Access Controls and Monitoring

Controlling access to data is an important function of data security. With the proper access controls in place, organizations can authorize and monitor access to data based on multiple factors like roles, location, time, etc. It is crucial for any business to not only have access controls in place but also continuously monitor user behavior so that any suspicious activity can be detected and flagged for investigation. In addition, preventative access controls enable organizations to limit data exposure and comply with data privacy regulations.


Encryption is one of the oldest and most common tools of data security. Encryption involves converting data from a readable format into an encoded format that cannot be decrypted without a key. Storing data in an encrypted format prevents attackers from accessing sensitive data even if data is exfiltrated from the system. Encryption is a security practice that is also mandated by many compliance standards.

Data Erasure

Most organizations store huge amounts of data that have been collected over the years. This could be different types of data like employee data, customer data, business intelligence, patents, financial data, etc. However, not all data is in use all the time, and some data also becomes redundant. Regardless, organizations are still accountable for this data and need to have policies and procedures to delete this data to eliminate the risk of it falling into the wrong hands.

Data Resiliency

Data resiliency is a security practice that addresses the recovery of data in the event of accidental erasure, corruption, or exfiltration. By ensuring that business-critical data is regularly backed up to secure servers, organizations can always rely on backups, especially in the event of ransomware attacks or accidental/malicious data erasure.

Data Privacy Regulations

Data is one of the most valuable assets for any business to succeed. To prevent the misuse, mishandling, and theft of data, several regulatory policies have been enforced across different industries. The right data security tools and technologies can enable you to comply with privacy regulations and protect your data from attacks and breaches. Some of the major regulations that affect data security include:

While these regulations may not apply to every industry or country, they provide a guide for you to orchestrate policies that uphold the integrity and security of your data across verticals and geo-locations. A robust audit and compliance strategy also help you reduce violations and avoid heavy fines.

ERP Data Security Challenges

Monitoring Data Access

With thousands of employees and third-party vendors accessing your ERP applications, monitoring user activity is a huge challenge for enterprises. Depending on the roles and authorizations, users access sensitive data, modify master data, and execute high-value transactions. Also, these users could be accessing data from HQ, remote locations, or public Wi-Fi, adding to the overall risk. Traditional ERPs do not collect detailed logs and lack visibility into user activities, which in turn creates security blind spots and affects the maintenance of audit trails.

Pathlock solves this challenge by providing granular visibility into the who, when, and where of ERP data access. Our Change Log Module provides detailed analysis of data access, allowing you to track changes to transaction and master data. This includes the source of change, the user initiating the change, as well as before/after values, including items that have been deleted.

Masking of Sensitive Data at Field Level

ERP applications are used to execute a variety of business operations by employees and third-party service providers. However, out-of-the-box ERP controls are simply not enough to restrict access or limit exposure to sensitive data. For example, a user who processes payroll does not need to know the employee’s email or other personal information, but the employee profile page may display all these fields when accessed for payroll.

Pathlock addresses these privacy violations by implementing data security controls that obfuscate sensitive PII and financial data in the ERP user interface by enforcing full or partial data masking at the field level. The solution also provides click-to-view that can expose sensitive data after the user has clicked on the masked data or cleared the multi-factor authentication challenge. This action is logged to enable real-time visibility into user actions and create alerts for suspicious behavior.

Insider Threats

Insider threats are emerging as one of the significant data security challenges costing enterprises millions of dollars. According to the Verizon Insider Threat Report, 57% of data breaches are caused by trusted insiders with access to sensitive data. Since ERP applications are used to store and access sensitive data, the lack of proper access controls and visibility into user behavior could lead to data theft and violations of security policies.

Pathlock enables you to take a proactive approach to mitigate insider threats by continuously monitoring and logging all user activity while alerting security teams to anomalous user behavior. Enterprises can also gain greater control of ERP user access by deploying Pathlock’s dynamic authorization policies to restrict access based on attributes like geolocation, time of day, IP address, and more.

Data Loss Prevention

The COVID pandemic ushered in a global age of remote work. Employees are accessing ERP applications on their personal devices and via public Wi-Fi. This can turn into a huge security risk for enterprises, resulting in unnecessary data exposure and data exfiltration. Additionally, data privacy regulations are implementing stricter mandates on data monitoring and access across the ERP ecosystem.

Pathlock secures ERP data by implementing controls that go beyond role-based access provided by most ERP applications. Pathlock’s solutions protect customer and employee personally identifiable information (PII), financial data, and intellectual property with attribute-based access controls (ABAC) at the business process, transaction, and master data level. With ABAC, enterprises can restrict or allow access based on location, time range, days, security clearance level, IP address, and more.

Data Privacy and Compliance

While ERPs can log access to the applications, traditional ERP applications don’t provide detailed logs of activity once users have been granted access. This lack of visibility is problematic when enterprises need to monitor access to PII residing in the ERP system. With sensitive data distributed across hundreds of pages, tracking events for audits or investigations can be a nightmare. Additionally, static access policies result in unnecessary data exposure, which can become a compliance issue.

Pathlock provides granular visibility into the who, when, and where of data accesses. With pre-built compliance reports for regulations like GDPR and SOX, Pathlock helps ease the implementation of complex regulatory requirements. Enterprise audit teams can generate detailed reports on user access and ensure the availability of audit trails in the event of a breach or external audits.

Secure Your ERP Data With Pathlock

Protecting data stored and accessed through ERP applications requires a robust technology framework that enables you to deploy internal controls and continuously monitor their efficiency. With the added burden of compliance regulations, it is important to choose solutions that can ease audit compliance in tandem with your overall ERP data security.

Pathlock provides a comprehensive security platform for managing user access to data, preventing compliance policy violations, limiting exposure of sensitive data, and detecting & responding to threats. Coupled with Pathlock’s monitoring and logging capabilities, enterprises can also proactively mitigate ERP risks and analyze user activity to detect threats and prevent breaches.

Get in touch with our ERP security experts for a demo.

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