ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems have evolved significantly in recent years. Modern systems can now automate practically all day-to-day business processes, including human resources, sales, stock management, and so on. That’s why many organisations are now choosing ERP systems. The advantage of all-in-one solutions like ERP systems is that they remove the need for multiple software applications to improve data consistency and ensure all aspects of daily operations are compatible and accessible. However, as with any sort of fully comprehensive system which covers such a broad spectrum, there are naturally going to be some weak spots and vulnerabilities that are important to keep an eye out for.

Here are 7 common ERP system security problems, and handy hints on how you can avoid them:

Delayed Updates

It’s reported that a whopping 87 percent of business computers feature outdated software, including ERP systems which are not up-to-date. If your version is currently unsupported, it can make it difficult to rectify any issues, such as crashes. More importantly, it leaves your business vulnerable to risk. Updates happen for a reason; sometimes to introduce new features, but mostly to address weaknesses that have been identified in the software. The world of cybercrime is changing constantly, and hackers are finding ways to get around even the latest of measures. That’s why installing updates as soon as possible is vital.

How to Avoid: If you’re finding you’re often lagging behind when it comes to installing ERP updates, then it might be worth looking into an automatic updater which applies any software updates when available.

Full Access Rights

The biggest threat to businesses undoubtedly comes from external sources, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and ignore potential in-house risks. Full access rights shouldn’t come as default; instead, it’s important to look at who has access to what data. For example, in most cases, a software developer wouldn’t require access to employee salary information. It’s also worth looking into which employees have permissions to make changes to the system. Access rights and permissions will largely depend upon the needs and requirements of your business, but as a general rule, it should be a ‘need to know’ basis.

How to Avoid: It’s important to maintain audit logs to track any changes. It’s also worth adding ‘authorizations’ to checklists for new hires, promotions, and any role change documentation.

Inadequate Training

Following on from the above, it is certainly worth considering the security risk posed by internal sources in more detail. In some cases, the risk may be intended and malicious, but in most cases, it is more likely to be the result of a lack of understanding. This could be a lack of understanding of the ERP system as a whole, or it could be a lack of understanding of what is expected by the organisation in terms of security. This is especially true for new hires who do not have an in-depth knowledge of internal processes. While any errors may be classed as ‘innocent mistakes’, it still leaves your business open to security risks.

How to Avoid: Ask your ERP provider if system training is including as standard, nominate staff to train new hires, and ensure business protocols are widely available and easily accessible to all employees.

Failure to Comply

If your ERP system is being used to store confidential sales information, including personal details and payment details, then it’s essential that the system meets local security standards requirements. This could include PCI DSS requirements if credit card data is involved. The system itself should store details in encrypted form only, without retaining the 3-digit security code, and there are also requirements for the business, too. You’ll be required to maintain secure passwords, restrict access to ‘need to know’, and track access to the data that you keep. You may also need to comply with regulations within your sector.

How to Avoid: Choose an ERP system that’s designed to comply with necessary regulations. It’s also important to change your vendor-issued password and adhere to good security practices at all times. 

[easy-tweet tweet=”The whole point of ERP is integration; to remove the need of ‘Frankensteining’” hashtags=”ERP,Frankensteining”]

Use of Unauthorised Systems

The whole point of ERP is integration; to remove the need for what is known as ‘Frankensteining’. Frankensteining happens when multiple software programs are used simultaneously to achieve a single goal, such as maintaining sales data on an ERP but running reports using Excel. This practices still takes places across many businesses, even if it is not office protocol. It mostly comes down to familiarity and preference for a specific application, and ease of use. This means that data could exist within a number of different programs at the same time, where it is not adequately maintained, updated, or secure.

How to Avoid: Firstly, look into preventing data export unless absolutely required. Secondly, if your ERP system isn’t doing everything you need it to, then perhaps it’s time to upgrade to a new system. 

[easy-tweet tweet=”Cloud ERP systems are becoming increasingly popular – any data is stored by a third party” hashtags=”Cloud,ERP”]

Automatic Trust 

Cloud ERP systems are becoming increasingly popular. This means that any data that you choose to enter into the system isn’t stored locally, but is instead stored by a third party cloud hosting service. There are a number of advantages to cloud ERP; they can mean much less work for your IT department, freeing them up for more profitable tasks, they can save you money, and it’s less drain on your internal networks. However, there is a slight downside, and that’s the need to place 100 percent of our ERP system security into someone else’s hands. Businesses need to have peace of mind that their data is safe.

How to Avoid: Consider your cloud provider very carefully, paying particular attention to their security processes and their data regulations. Ask around, read reviews, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Single Authentication

As ERP systems have evolved, they’ve become capable of handling not only a much wider range of information but also more sensitive information as well. Single authentication — passwords, for example — is standard, but we have to ask ourselves whether 1FA (one-factor authentication) is enough for modern ERP systems. Password cracking is one of the simplest and most common forms of hacking, so it really doesn’t make sense to protect our most important, sensitive, and confidential business data through the use of passwords alone which can be stolen or even guessed relatively easily by experts.

How to Avoid: The obvious solution is 2FA. The good news is that the 2FA industry has changed in recent years and there is no longer a need for a physical device. Instead, a code can be sent to an email address.

Weighing Up The Benefits

Although there are a number of security factors to take into account when implementing a new ERP system, it’s important to remember that the advantages far outweigh the concerns. In fact, by maintaining a safe and secure ERP system, with high levels of data consistency, the system could actually help to make your business even more secure, providing peace of mind for your staff and your clients.