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A total of more than 4,100 publicly disclosed data breaches occurred in 2022, resulting in the exposure of approximately 22 billion records.

14 new ransomware groups target organizations worldwide.

Since Jan 2023 to July 2023 approx. 2700+ vulnerabilities with CVSS9 and above were recorded.

Akira ransomware operators claim to have compromised 63 organizations since March 2023. Most of them are Small and Medium business.

These incidents serves as a chilling reminder of the importance of safeguarding applications and data. To protect data, enterprises must adopt a comprehensive security approach starting at the physical layer. A multi-layered security strategy focused on application and data security is the only way to thwart persistent cyber adversaries.

Don't be a victim! Read this blog to assess your enterprise's current position in enhancing security measures and combating cyber threats.

By weaving together the five major areas of security, businesses can construct a formidable digital fortress, mitigating risks and safeguarding their most valuable assets in the face of evolving cyber threats.

In this article, we will explore different levels of security that can make your organization's critical assets impenetrable, from physical security to data security. Additionally, we'll dig into five stages of security, explore the critical levels that must be applied, such as physical access controls and data encryption, and learn how to strengthen SAP applications and protect sensitive information using best practices derived from real-life examples.

The Security Pentagon

The fundamental pillars of modern security, including Physical Security, Network Security, Application Security, Authorizations (Segregation of Duties), and the Data Security.

Security Pentagon

1. Physical Security: Guarding the Gates

Physical security is the first line of defence for any organization. Secure access controls, surveillance systems, and biometric authentication ensure that only authorized personnel can access work locations, key areas, and data centres. By preventing unauthorized access to servers and network devices, adequate physical security reduces the risk of data breaches.

Additionally, the custodian of backups plays a crucial role in safeguarding an enterprise's valuable data. Businesses often overlook the importance of properly transferring critical backups when switching service providers. This oversight can lead to potential data vulnerabilities, as some providers may not give importance once the client moves out of their service.

It is possible to permanently delete data from backup devices by overwriting it or destroying it. Data overwriting involves repeatedly overwriting data with random characters, making it unrecoverable. It is possible to achieve this level of secure data erasure using tools such as DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke). If the data is highly sensitive or obsolete, data destruction may be an option. By shredding or disintegrating backup media, the data can be irretrievably destroyed. Using these methods, enterprises can protect the privacy of their information and maintain compliance with data protection laws.

The prudent management of backups during provider transitions is essential to prevent data loss or compromise.

2. Network Security: Building the Walls

Network security acts as a sturdy perimeter around your digital fortress. Network security is ensured by firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) solutions. Incoming and outgoing traffic is inspected, suspicious activity is identified, and possible threats are blocked by various rules defined using these solutions. Additionally, by using a virtual private network (VPN), remote users can communicate securely with the organization's network.

The SAP Enterprise Threat Detection solution is a great way to secure SAP systems for enterprises using SAP as their ERP. You can learn more about SAP Enterprise Threat Detection (ETD) in my previous blog - Safeguarding SAP Landscapes: Unleashing the Power of SAP Enterprise Threat Detection (ETD) - An Intr...

3. Application Security: Strengthening the Core

Critical applications are often the primary targets of cyberattacks. It is imperative to implement secure coding practices, conduct regular vulnerability assessments, and perform penetration testing to ensure the security of your application. In order to avoid breaches and ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of applications, organizations should identify and patch vulnerabilities. Below sub-sections explain some of the activities.

3.1 Patch systems regularly

In his blog post titled "The Critical Role of SAP Patch Management in Safeguarding Your Business" josephchukwube emphasizes the significance of SAP patch management and underscores why organizations should prioritize effective SAP patch management.

SAP regularly issues patches (Read - SAP Security Patch Day) to ensure that SAP systems remain up to date and well-protected. However, it is crucial to note that if SAP systems have not been upgraded for over two years, SAP cannot guarantee the availability of Security Note updates. Consequently, this poses a risk of incompatibilities, leaving the systems unpatched and vulnerable to potential threats.

To address these risks, organizations using SAP should ideally aim updating their SAP systems at least once every six months, with an even more ideal frequency of every three months. SAP provides security updates on a periodic basis, necessitating a well-planned schedule to manage the workload efficiently. This schedule should account for both the small, regular updates and the less frequent but potentially more disruptive major upgrades. By adhering to such a schedule, businesses can better safeguard their SAP systems and maintain a higher level of security.

3.2 Utilize SAP Solution Manager effectively

SAP Solution Manager is a vital ally in the effort to secure SAP systems. Utilizing SAP Solution Manager effectively can strengthen businesses' security postures and ensure SAP landscape security.

The Maintenance Planner and System Recommendations functionalities can be used by organizations to apply regular security patches. Businesses can proactively monitor and maintain security through the use of EarlyWatch Alerts (EWA) and Security Optimization Service (SOS). By integrating third-party security tools, security capabilities are further enhanced. Organizations can exercise greater control over changes and effectively respond to security incidents with Change Request Management (ChaRM) and Incident Management capabilities.

SAP Solution Manager can strengthen SAP systems and protect them against potential threats if organizations use it effectively and include these key modules in their security strategy.

3.3 Audit the key areas based on Risk & Control Ratings

In order to ensure that internal controls and risk management practices are effective, organizations should audit key areas based on risk and control ratings.
Many organizations believe risk management is an audit requirement, but not a business necessity. It has been my experience that most clients choose to implement controls, solutions, or strategies in one of two scenarios:

  • In the event of an audit requirement

  • or there is a risk or fraud incident at the company

Having the right controls in place and conducting audits in a timely manner will allow your teams to focus on business rather than incidents.

It is easiest to categorize risks according to their probability and severity. Rating risks helps identify the risks and potential consequences posed by different risks, while rating controls assesses the effectiveness of existing controls in mitigating those risks. Based on these ratings, auditors focus their examinations on areas with weaker controls and conduct more in-depth evaluations in high-risk areas. In addition to optimizing the audit process, this approach also provides management with valuable insights, allowing them to take proactive measures to address vulnerabilities and improve overall risk management. You can find the frequency of review/audit in the table below.

Risk Rating and Audit Frequency Matrix

4. Adapt to the right Authorizations design: Guarding the Keep

Limiting access to sensitive data minimizes the risk of security breaches or insider threats.

  1. A well-defined role-based access control model should be implemented that aligns with the organization's structure and job responsibilities. As a result, users are granted access permissions based on their specific roles and responsibilities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

  2. POLA (Principle of Least Authorization): Grant users only the minimum level of access required to perform their job functions. Make sure that you do not give broad permissions that could result in data breaches or unauthorized actions.

  3. Ensure users' access rights are up-to-date and relevant by conducting periodic access reviews and certifications. As a result of this process, any discrepancies or unnecessary privileges that may have accumulated over time can be identified and corrected.

  4. Conduct a Segregation of Duties (SoD) analysis in order to identify and resolve conflicts within user roles that may lead to fraud or misuse of privileges. You should ensure that critical business processes are collaborative, so that no single user is able to exert excessive control.

  5. Utilize Privileged Access Management solutions to tightly control and monitor access to critical systems and privileged accounts. Using this system, privileged users are restricted to only authorized personnel, and their activities are tracked.

The SAP authorization design can be improved to minimize risks, improve compliance with regulations, and enhance overall data protection by incorporating these points.

5. Data Level Security: Protecting the Treasure

A company's data is its lifeblood, so protecting it is paramount. Encrypting sensitive data at rest and in transit adds an extra layer of security, making it unreadable even if unauthorized parties gain access. Tokenization and data masking techniques can further protect sensitive information, so that organizations can use fictitious but realistic data in non-production environments.

Logs of data access and monitoring tools are essential for identifying suspicious activities. A data loss prevention (DLP) solution can prevent unauthorized data exfiltration and ensure compliance with data protection laws.

Additionally, SAP UI Masking and Logging play a crucial role in SAP data security. By masking sensitive data, UI masking prevents unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information while allowing non-sensitive information to be viewed. When dealing with production data in non-production environments, this ensures compliance with data privacy regulations.

SAP Logging, on the other hand, records and stores a chronological sequence of user activities. Detecting and investigating potential security breaches, as well as troubleshooting and analysing system errors, are two main purposes of this audit trail. By combining SAP UI Masking and SAP Logging, sensitive data is safeguarded and SAP systems are kept intact.

Check out this blog by masood.ahmed that explains more about UI masking. Furthermore, SAP Help documents on UI Data Protection Masking for SAP S/4HANA can be found at Link.

If UI masking and logging is not possible, another alternative is to enable comprehensive audit logging and monitoring mechanisms to track user activities and detect suspicious or unauthorized actions. It helps detect and mitigate security incidents early.


Organizations must have a comprehensive security approach, which includes physical, network, application, and data-level security to combat a constantly evolving threat landscape. It takes a commitment to regularly update and improve security measures, to train employees on best practices, and to stay informed about emerging threats to build a digital fortress.

Security is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing process. Organizations can identify and address potential weaknesses through audits, vulnerability assessments, and penetration tests. In order to gain the trust of customers and partners, organizations must take proactive measures to secure their applications and data.