By Thomas Kastner, Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer at Virtual Forge GmbH
The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a regulation that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union citizens in regards to transactions that occur with any EU data subjects. Most businesses if not all, leverage their data specifically to better understand their customers. Compliance with the GDPR has caused much concern with the new expectations of security systems as well as how these organizations manage their SAP framework.
With the change in regulation and the upcoming enforcement date of May 25th, companies utilizing SAP systems must ensure that their data is secure and safe from the threat of a breach. Within an SAP system lives a vast amount of code and data, which means that companies must constantly be weary of security threats from internal and external audiences. Elevating the risk more so is the possibility of legal fines should a breach within the SAP system occur. There are approximately 320 million lines of code in SAP’s Business Suite alone, leaving substantial vulnerabilities at any given time. According to the GDPR, fines for a breach infraction can cost businesses up to 4% of their global revenue, or $20 million Euros.
One challenge businesses face in particular is that even if they’re large enough to have a dedicated internal IT department, their focus remains on tying business operations to IT functions. The notion that most IT staff are information security experts is a widespread misconception, leaving thousands of companies and their millions of customers exposed to everyday security threats. This vulnerability can be costly, as the CISO of a Fortune-500 company once said: “If our company’s SAP system is breached, it will cost us $22 million per minute.”
There are three key areas organizations and their IT staff must be aware of to help keep their SAP data secure and compliant with the GDPR:
A large proportion of all SAP security vulnerabilities are a result of improper configurations to the broader SAP System. This area is difficult for IT staff to comprehend simply because there are so many settings in a typical SAP landscape. Interfaces are difficult to identify and manage, and patch management is not as easy as you might find with Windows applications, for example.
IT personnel frequently consult with reliable SAP security experts that provide a comprehensive overview of all SAP interfaces; complete transparency of data streams; continuous protection of interfaces; and a proactive approach to ongoing and automated monitoring of the entire system landscape.
One of the great benefits of SAP is the ability to customize the system for the benefit of a unique business. As an example, an internet based retailer shipping to European customers will have slightly different IT business needs compared to that of a brick-and-mortar store with an online presence. As such, the SAP system running both businesses and their functions will each be customized for their specific needs. In this case, custom code must be developed and implemented for the business to realize the benefits of SAP.
The challenge here is that there are millions of lines of custom code developed for SAP, and it is virtually impossible to manually scan this code for security vulnerabilities. What’s worse, developers typically do not have the proper knowledge needed to fully vet code for security vulnerabilities. To combat this, developers and businesses are now utilizing cutting edge technologies that automate the scanning process of custom code implementations. These solutions are similar to a spell-checker system, and can quickly scan lines of custom code with the click of a button to help protect against any vulnerabilities.
As mentioned earlier, companies that use SAP software add in their own customizations and developments. This means that functions and settings are often modified and enhanced, which can lead to changes made to hundreds of objects every day, along with manipulation of data. These changes are reviewed and adjusted in development and test environments before getting deployed to the live production system. Unfortunately, these transport files can’t be checked before the import takes place to production, leaving systems vulnerable to stability issues when the data is transported.
Any slight modification during development and test environments can change critical settings of the data, leaving important applications unable to operate or even result in a complete system failure. What’s worse, there can be possible intrusion situations that involve transporting a user and password or other critical data without drawing attention. In response, advanced SAP system solutions today leverage technologies designed to ensure the integrity of transports, as well as configuration and application data that are critical for running error-free business operations.
Today’s business landscape is beyond complex, and the global economy has digitally connected businesses, vendors and customers in a way that helps move information, services and goods at lightning speed. This velocity of commerce and vast network of interconnectivity also means businesses are vulnerable to malicious entrants organizations may not be aware of for weeks or even months. On average, it takes a company 80 days to realize its SAP system has been penetrated; and another 50 days until the vulnerability is fixed. By leveraging new SAP security solutions and technologies, companies of all sizes realize they will be defended in a more efficient way, keeping them in compliance with GDPR regulations and ensuring their data and that of their customers remains safe.
About the Author: Thomas Kastner is the Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer at Virtual Forge GmbH, the leading provider of Cyber Security solutions for SAP systems and applications. He is responsible for product management and development, consulting services and IT Infrastructure. For more information visit www.VirtualForge.com.