Layer Seven Security

Three More Reasons for using Solution Manager to Secure SAP Systems from Cyber Attack

Our recent article outlining the advantages of using SAP-delivered components versus third party software resonated strongly with customers seeking an effective and cost-efficient solution to address cyber threats impacting their SAP systems. The article examined the five key benefits of a Solution Manager-based strategy that included lower costs through the avoidance of licensing and maintenance fees for third-party software, the ability to configure custom security checks to address system, company or industry-specific risks, alerting for critical security events, detailed reporting driven by SAP Business Warehouse, and the availability of SAP support. The article presented a compelling argument for selecting SAP Solution Manager over the host of competing solutions offered by independent vendors.

The benefits delivered by Solution Manager stem from the depth and volume of security-related data that is continuously pulled from managed systems into the platform. Solution Manager lays at the core of SAP system landscapes and therefore occupies a central vantage point to oversee the security of connected systems. In contrast, third party software solutions are not embedded within SAP landscapes to the same extent and therefore lack the connectivity and range of Solution Manager.

Aside from the advantages mentioned above, there are three other benefits delivered by Solution Manager for security monitoring. The first is the availability of security dashboards. SAP delivers three security apps through the standard WebDynpro dashboard application in Solution Manager, located in the Cross-Application section for dashboard apps. This includes the Security Overview app, which summarizes security policy compliance by system across landscapes, the Security Details app, which displays compliance levels for software, configuration and user categories, and finally, the Security List app, which conveys security compliance levels for every SAP System ID. Dashboards apps can be automatically refreshed as often as every 5 minutes to provide security information in near real-time.

The second is Solution Manager’s ability to deliver detailed metrics for analyzing changes. Like third party solutions, components such as Configuration Validation in Solution Manager are able to pinpoint differences between actual and recommended security settings. However, Solution Manager goes a step further by enabling users to drill-down into the underlying changes that created risks identified by security scans. This is performed through Change Analysis which provides timestamps for changes in managed systems and the original values for instance, profile or other parameters before the changes were implemented.

The third is Solution Manager’s flexibility to support security policies aligned to any compliance framework. This includes not only familiar frameworks such as SOX and PCI DSS but requirements that are unique to specific industries or sectors. The transparent security checks performed by Configuration Validation can be customized for all regulatory, statutory and other forms of compliance standards.

Organizations do not have to look far for the solution to remove security vulnerabilities in their SAP systems. Most are delivered with standard license agreements by SAP and can be leveraged immediately at zero cost. Tools such as Configuration Validation provide a powerful and cost-effective alternative to third party solutions. They are also fully supported by SAP. You can learn more about SAP Configuration Validation here or contact Layer Seven Security to unlock the value of your Solution Manager systems.

Cybersecurity Insurance: Is it Worth the Cost?

According to the most recent annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of detecting and recovering from cyber crime for organizations in the United States is $5.4 million. Median costs have risen by almost 50 percent since the inaugural study in 2010. The finding masks the enormous variation of data breach costs which can range from several hundred thousand to several hundred million dollars, depending on the severity of the breach. A growing number of insurance companies are offering cyber protection to enable organizations to manage such costs. This includes traditional carriers in centers such as London, New York, Zurich and elsewhere, as well as new entrants targeting the cybersecurity insurance market. Carriers in the latter category should be carefully veted since some new entrants have been known to offer fraudulent policies in order to exploit the growth in demand for cyber insurance.

Cybersecurity insurance has been commercially available since the late 1970s but was limited to banking and other financial services until 1999-2001.  It became more widespread after Y2K and 9/11. Premiums also increased after these events and carriers began to exclude cyber risks from general policies. More recently, the dramatic rise in the threat and incidence of data breaches has propelled cybersecurity into a boardroom issue and led to a growing interest in cyber policies from organizations looking to limit their exposure.

A 2011 study performed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that approximately 46% of companies possess insurance policies to protect against the theft or misuse of electronic data, consumer records, etc. However, this is contradicted by the findings of 2012 survey by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies which revealed that 65 percent of public companies forego cyber insurance. The confusion may be due to a general lack of awareness among survey responders of the exact nature of insurance coverage. Many responders appear to be under the impression that cyber risks are covered by general insurance policies even though this is no longer the norm.

The cybersecurity insurance industry is highly diverse with carriers employing a plurality of approaches. Some offer standardized insurance products with typically low coverage limits. Others provide customized policies tailored for the specific needs of each client. Furthermore, the industry is evolving rapidly to keep pace with evolving threats and trends in cybersecurity.

Policy premiums are driven primarily by industry factors. E-commerce companies performing online transactions while storing sensitive information such as credit card data are generally considered high risk and are therefore subject to higher premiums. Health institutions hosting data such as social security numbers and medical records are also deemed high risk.

Premiums typically range between $10,000 to $40,000 per $1 million and provide up to $50 million in coverage. However, most standard policies only provide coverage for specific third-party costs to cover losses incurred by a company’s customers or partners. This includes risks related to unauthorized access and the disclosure of private information, as well as so-called conduit injuries that cause harm to third party systems.

Polices that provide coverage for first-party areas such as crisis management, business interruption, intellectual property theft, extortion and e-vandalism carry far higher premiums and are therefore relatively rare. This limits the appeal of cybersecurity insurance and ensures organizations need to self-insure for such risks for the foreseeable future. The situation is unlikely to improve until actuarial data is more widely available and shared between carriers for cybersecurity risks. This may require the establishment of a federal reinsurance agency and legislative standards for cybersecurity.

Carriers are unlikely to offer full cover for all first and third party costs arising from security breaches. This is due to the moral hazard associated with such coverage. Organizations that completely transfer cyber risk have no incentive to invest in preventative and monitoring controls to manage security risks. However, most carriers have exclusions for breaches caused by negligence. Other exclusions include coverage for fines and penalties, often due to regulatory reasons.

Aside from industry considerations, other factors that drive premiums for cybersecurity insurance are risk management cultures and practices in organizations. Carriers often assess cybersecurity policies and procedures before deciding premiums. Organizations that adopt best practices or industry standards for system security are generally offered lower premiums than those that do not. Therefore, insurers work closely with clients during the underwriting process to measure the likelihood and impact of relevant cyber risks. This includes consideration for management controls. Carriers that decide not to assess the cybersecurity practices of prospective clients tend to compensate by including requirements for minimal acceptable standards within policies. These clauses ensure that carriers do not reimburse organizations that failed to follow generally-accepted standards for cybersecurity before a security breach. Cybersecurity standards for SAP systems are embodied in benchmarks that are aligned to security recommendations issued by SAP. This includes the SAP Cybersecurity Framework outlined in the white paper, Protecting SAP Systems from Cyber Attack.

Cybersecurity insurance is most valuable for organizations with mature cyber risk cultures including effective standards and procedures for preventing, detecting and responding to cyber attacks. It enables such organizations to transfer the risk of specific costs arising from security breaches that are more cost-effectively covered by third-party coverage rather than self-insurance. Cybersecurity insurance is not a viable option for companies with weak risk management practices. Even if carriers were willing to insure such high-risk organizations, the premiums are likely to outweigh the cost of self-insurance. Furthermore, the likelihood that organizations would be able to collect upon such policies is low.

Five Reasons You Do Not Require Third Party Security Solutions for SAP Systems

You’ve read the data sheet. You’ve listened to the sales spin. You’ve even seen the demo. But before you fire off the PO, ask yourself one question: Is there an alternative?

In recent years, there have emerged a wide number of third party security tools for SAP systems. Such tools perform vulnerability checks for SAP systems and enable customers to detect and remove security weaknesses primarily within the NetWeaver application server layer. Most, if not all, are capable of reviewing areas such as default ICF services, security-relevant profile parameters, password policies, RFC trust relationships and destinations with stored logon credentials.

The need to secure and continuously monitor such areas for changes that expose SAP systems to cyber threats is clear and well-documented. However, the real question is do organisations really need such solutions? In 2012, the answer was a resounding yes. In 2013, the argument for such solutions began to waiver and was, at best, an unsure yes with many caveats. By 2014, the case for licensing third party tools has virtually disappeared. There are convincing reasons to believe that such tools no longer offer the most effective and cost-efficient solution to the security needs of SAP customers.

The trigger for this change has been the rapid evolution of standard SAP components capable of detecting misconfigurations that lead to potential security risks. The most prominent of these components is Configuration Validation, packaged in SAP Solution Manager 7.0 and above and delivered to SAP customers with standard license agreements. Configuration Validation continuously monitors critical security settings within SAP systems and automatically generates alerts for changes that may expose systems to cyber attack. Since third party scanners are typically priced based on number of target IPs, Configuration Validation can directly save customers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in large landscapes. The standard Solution Manager setup process will meet most of the prerequisites for using the component. For customers that choose to engage professional services to enable and configure security monitoring using Solution Manager, the cost of such one-off services is far less than the annual licenses and maintenance fees for third party tools.

The second reason for the decline in the appeal of non-SAP delivered security solutions is a lack of support for custom security checks. Most checks are hard-coded, meaning customers are unable to modify validation rules to match their specific security policies. In reality, it is impossible to apply a vanilla security standard to all SAP systems. Configuration standards can differ by the environment, the applications supported by the target systems, whether the systems are internal or external facing and a variety of other factors. Therefore, it is critical to leverage a security tool capable of supporting multiple security policies. This requirement is currently only fully met by Configuration Validation.

The third reason is security alerting. While some third party solutions support automated scheduled checks, none can match native capabilities in Solution Manager capable of the near-instant alerting through channels such as email and SMS.

The fourth and fifth reasons are shortcomings in reporting and product support when compared to the powerful analytical capabilities available through SAP Business Warehouse integrated within Solution Manager and the reach of SAP Active Global Support.

More information is available in the Solutions section including a short introductory video and a detailed Solution Brief that summarizes the benefits of Configuration Validation and professional services delivered by Layer Seven to enable the solution in your landscape. To schedule a demo, contact us at

M-Trends, Verizon DBIR & Symantec ISTR: Detecting and responding to cyber attacks has never been more important

The release of three of the most important annual threat intelligence reports earlier this month confirmed that 2013 was an explosive year for cybersecurity. All three reports point to rising incidences of cyber attack, increasing sophistication of attack vectors and a growing diversity of threat actors and targets.

The first of the reports is entitled M-Trends, compiled by the security forensics company Mandiant, now owned by FireEye. M-Trends is based on the analysis of incidence response data from organisations across 30 industries. While the analysis detected a slight improvement in the average number of days taken by organisations to detect a network breach, there was no discernable improvement in the ability of organisations to detect breaches without outside assistance. Only 33 percent of breaches are discovered by internal resources.

The analysis also revealed that cybercriminals are deploying a wider variety of attack methodologies against targets. Traditional approaches involve the detection and exploitation of vulnerabilities in Web applications which enable attackers to move laterally through connected systems after a successful compromise. According to M-Trends, attackers are shifting focus from Web applications to exploiting workstations and other systems infected with botnets and Trojans. These tools are designed to create backdoors for the installation and propagation of more powerful  forms of malware designed to seek out and extract sensitive data.

The report notes that sensitive data goes beyond proprietary intellectual property. State-sponsored attackers target a wide variety of information sources to understand how businesses work including emails, procedural and workflow documents, plans, budgets, organisational charts, and meeting agendas and minutes.

M-Trends concludes that the list of potential targets has increased, and the playing field has grown. Threat actors are not only interested in seizing the corporate crown jewels, but are also looking for ways to publicize their views, cause physical destruction, and influence decision makers.

The second report is also the most long-standing and well-known. The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) is now in its eighth year and includes contributions from organisations such as the U.S Secret Service, US-CERT, Europol and the Council on Cyber Security. The 2014 DBIR analyzed over 1300 confirmed data breaches and 63,000 security incidents in 95 countries.

The highest number of security incidents analyzed by the DBIR affected organizations in the financial, retail and public sector. This is unsurprising since such organizations tend to store or process financial and other sensitive information. However, the DBIR did not observe any industry that was not impacted by security incidents that led to confirmed data losses. This underscore the DBIR finding that “everyone is vulnerable to some type of event. Even if you think your organization is at low risk for external attacks, there remains the possibility of insider misuse and errors that harm systems and expose data. To illustrate, 30% percent of security incidents impacting manufacturing companies can be classified as acts of cyber espionage. In comparison, less than 1 percent of incidents in public sector organisations are caused by cyber espionage. However, public sector organisations experience three times as many incidents of insider abuse as manufacturing companies.

The third and final threat intelligence report released in April was Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report which revealed a 62 percent year-on-year increase in data breaches with 8 breaches exposing more than 10 million identities each. According to the report, the industries most at risk of a targeted attack are mining, government and manufacturing. The likelihood that organisations in such industries will experience an attack are 1 in 2.7, 1 in 3.1 and 1 in 3.2 respectively.

The report also revealed that there were more zero-day vulnerabilities in 2013 than other year on record. The number of zero-day vulnerabilities discovered last year were 61 percent higher than the year before and more than the previous two years combined.

The report recommends multiple and mutually-supportive defense-in-depth strategies to guard against single-point failures. It also recommends continuous monitoring and automatic alerting for intrusion attempts, as well as aggressive updating and patching. These recommendations are echoed by both M-Trends and the DBIR. According to the former, organisations require “visibility into their networks, endpoints and logs. Organisations also need actionable threat intelligence that identifies malicious activity faster.

Layer Seven Security enable SAP customers to meet this challenge by hardening every component of the SAP technology stack for defense in depth including underlying networks, databases and operating systems. We also configure comprehensive network, system, table and user logs to enable organisations to track, identify and respond to cyber attacks. Finally, we unlock standard, powerful security monitoring mechanisms in SAP Solution Manager to automatically detect and alert of potential malicious activity.

Trustwave Survey Reveals that IT Professionals are Feeling the Pressure of Board Level Scrutiny over Cyber Security

The rise in the rate and sophistication of cyber attacks has predictably fuelled the pressure on security resources. However, the precise complexion and source of the pressure was largely unknown until the recent release of the Trustwave Security Pressures study. The study examines the threats most concerning to security professionals and the preferred responses.

The results of the study are based on survey responses from over 800 decision makers in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany including CIOs, CISOs, and IT Directors / Managers. Almost 60 percent of respondents were IT/ Security Directors or higher and 75 percent represented organisations in North America.

Over 50 percent of IT professionals experienced more security-related pressures in 2013 than the year before and almost 60 percent expect the pressure to grow in 2014. The source of the greatest pressure is the threat of external attack through targeted malware. The threat of data loss arising from a successful network and system breach also ranked highly as a stressor. Only 5 percent of respondents believe their organisations are not susceptible to attack.

The study revealed that owners, boards of directors and C-level executives exert the most pressure on IT professionals. This reflects the high visibility and growing board-level presence of security concerns. Cyber risk is a common and recurring subject on board agendas. According to Trustwave, executives and board members are increasingly demanding a deeper explanation from IT professionals on security postures and often display a lack of confidence in IT risk management strategies. This wariness stems partly from the seeming inability of conventional security products and solutions to stem the tide of cyber attack and data loss.

The study also revealed that respondents struggle with the complexity of security solutions, shortages in dedicated resources and controlling capital and operational budgets.

The study recommends a number of specific actions to relieve the pressure. The first involves accepting the growing level of scrutiny from boards and other sources over security practices and managing security programs as strategic business initiatives with regular reporting to executive management. Other recommendations include augmenting in-house security expertise by partnering with outside security consultants, performing periodic risk assessments and penetration tests, focusing upon securing external-facing systems, controlling third party access and avoiding over-reliance upon security tools that provide a false sense of security.

Layer Seven’s Cybersecurity Framework delivers a comprehensive strategy to protect SAP systems from cyber attack and data breach. The framework provides a series of actionable recommendations to alleviate the growing pressure on IT professionals while avoiding the need for capital expenditure in security software. The framework equips security professionals with the insight and expertise required to safeguard mission-critical SAP resources from cyber risks. Learn more.