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The Importance of SAP Security for Companies: Factors, Challenges and Best Practices

Exploring the Impact of Cyber Threats, Cloud Deployment, and Business Exposures on SAP Security

Securing business-critical SAP capability in a complex and risky cyber world
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SAP is the indispensable systems backbone for many medium-to-large businesses, powering core business processes from production to procurement and HR.  For these enterprises, securing the SAP estate from Cyber Attacks is essential to protecting the business from shutdowns, major losses, and serious reputational damage.


Any enterprise running SAP software needs to take account of three critical factors in maintaining an effective Cyber Security posture:

  • The increasing sophistication and cost impact of cyber threats  
  • The new vulnerabilities that accompany the benefits of cloud deployment 
  • The scale of business exposure from cyber breaches involving the SAP platform.

This blog explores these factors, outlines a best-practice approach to SAP cybersecurity, and highlights Arvato Systems’ unique experience and capability in helping clients secure their SAP implementation in an increasingly complex and risky cyber world.

Other blogs in this series explore the elements of this approach to SAP cybersecurity in more detail, from identifying vulnerabilities and understanding the estate, through threat protection and detection, to response and recovery to cyberattacks.


Cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated and costly

Cyberattacks have evolved, from the random exploits of a few individual hackers into a well-funded and sophisticated tool for organized criminals and governments. 
At the same time, enterprise IT has diversified, from centralized systems accessed within a single network perimeter, to services and components assembled from multiple sources and accessed from anywhere.


This diversity massively increases the cyberattack surface, meaning the traditional firewalled corporate perimeter needs to be treated as just one element of a much wider cybersecurity approach.  


As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and the corporate IT estate gets more complex, the damage inflicted by cyberattacks increases, as does the cost of guarding against them. The worldwide average cost of a data breach has grown from $3.5 million in 2014, to $4.35 million in 2022, and one report predicts that cumulative spend on cyber security could reach $1.75 trillion by 2025.


Businesses that rely on SAP need effective cybersecurity strategies and technology to meet this evolving and growing threat.

Cloud deployment brings both benefits and security challenges

SAP has not always been seen as a natural candidate for cloud deployment because of its traditional architecture, its importance as a core business production system, and its large number of integrations with third-party systems. 


This has changed, as the advantages of cloud deployment, such as instant scalability, cost flexibility and the ability to add functionality rapidly, have come to outweigh the challenges. At the same time, SAP architecture has developed to embrace cloud.


Along with its undeniable benefits, SAP cloud deployment brings some unique security challenges.  While cloud offers the capability to integrate functionality from different sources seamlessly and rapidly, SAP ERP systems were deliberately developed as monolithic entities to protect core functionality, with limited interfaces to third-party systems. This can constrain the ability to integrate SAP with critical Cloud cybersecurity functionality 


Cybersecurity strategy for SAP deployment needs to take this into account, using available approaches and tools to mitigate the security impact of cloud deployment. 


Securing SAP deployment needs to be a critical business priority

SAP software’s role in core business processes means that any outage on an enterprise’s SAP platform rapidly leads to business losses, and serious interruptions can threaten the entire business.


This potential for business loss needs to drive every aspect of the cybersecurity approach, yet it is not always given the necessary focus.   
For example, unpatched vulnerabilities are the most common attack vector for ransomware actors, yet many SAP clients admit patching is not always maintained up to date.


Recovery strategies that involve shutting down production systems for 12 hours to restore data can cause as much business damage as an attack itself.


Delivering effective SAP cybersecurity

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework provides an essential foundation for developing an effective cybersecurity approach.


The framework lays out five key elements, to 

  • Identify vulnerabilities and threats by evaluating all elements of the estate 
  • Protect against attacks by putting in place systems and process countermeasures
  • Detect attacks through monitoring and shared intelligence
  • Respond to attack with countermeasures and processes
  • Recover from attack with processes and tools to keep the business running and restore service and data.

Other blogs in this series explore each element in more detail, and how they apply specifically to SAP cybersecurity deployment.


How Arvato Systems creates added value

Extensive IT expertise, a high level of technical understanding, strong industry knowledge, and partnership in action - that's Arvato Systems. 


In helping clients secure their business-critical enterprise SAP deployment, Arvato Systems can call on its strategic partnerships with key providers – Microsoft, Google Cloud and AWS – as well as the proven SAP expertise that comes with being an SAP Gold Partner.


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Written by

Timo Schlüter
Expert for Cyber Security