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SAP Cybersecurity Framework 2.0: What’s New?

Since the official release of the SAP Cybersecurity Framework in 2014, the standard has become the de facto benchmark for securing SAP systems from advanced cyber threats. Drawing upon guidance issued directly by SAP, as well as the real-world experience of front-line SAP security architects and forensic investigators, the framework delivers a single point of reference to harden SAP systems from cyber risks. It enables enterprises to counter weaknesses in perimeter controls such as network firewalls and intrusion detection systems by securing the technical infrastructure of SAP systems. Vulnerabilities in such infrastructure could be exploited to bypass perimeter controls and corrupt or leak sensitive business information or perform denial of service attacks in SAP systems.

The threat posed by attackers that seek out and exploit vulnerabilities has reached epidemic proportions. By all measures, attacks are growing in frequency and sophistication. The number of threat actors is also increasing, ranging from organized gangs of cyber criminals to hacktivist groups and state-sponsored agents. Finally, the impact of cyber attacks has reached new levels. The cost of a successful data breach is no longer measured in purely monetary terms. Recent experience has demonstrated that the impact can be strategic and long-lasting.

The SAP Cybersecurity Framework fills the void created by weaknesses in perimeter security and the limitations of GRC software that focus exclusively on the SAP authorization concept. It empowers organizations to better understand and respond to lesser known risks in the technical components of SAP systems to greatly reduce the likelihood of a system breach. It also enables enterprises to improve breach detection capabilities to respond more rapidly to attacks and contain the impact.

What’s more, the framework provides a clear path for securing SAP systems from cyber threats using only standard SAP-delivered software. It demonstrates that effective strategies are not necessarily tied to licensing third party solutions but leveraging the host of security tools made available by SAP to customers without any additional expense. This includes automated vulnerability detection and alerting tools available in Solution Manager. It therefore provides a powerful and cost-effective alternative to approaches that revolve around purchasing, installing and configuring solutions from independent software vendors.

The SAP Cybersecurity Framework 2.0 improves upon the original standard by incorporating new SAP guidance in areas such as trace functions to identify authorizations required for RFC users, enabling switchable authorization checks, whitelists for RFC callbacks, and approaches for identifying required security patches included in Notes and support packages.

Trace Functions
There are several limitations with analyzing log data in event logs configured in the Security Audit Log and transaction STAD for restricting permissions for RFC users. The former only record function groups accessed by users and the latter is resource-intensive. Therefore, SAP recommends using short and long-term trace functions through transactions STAUTHTRACE, STRFCTRACE or STUSOBTRACE. This approach will reveal the function modules accessed by users and consume fewer system resources than STAD.

Switchable Authorization Checks
Switchable authorization checks are intended to strengthen security for critical remote-enabled function modules that are used to access or modify sensitive data by requiring additional authorization checks above and beyond the standard S_RFC check. They are delivered via Notes and support packages but should only be enabled after relevant user profiles are updated to include the new authorizations. The DUO and DUQ event logs of the Security Audit Log should be activated and reviewed to identify the specific users requiring the authorizations during a non-disruptive logging phase.

RFC Callbacks
Positive whitelists for systems with later versions of SAP Basis have been introduced by SAP to control the dangers posed by RFC callbacks. Callbacks enable servers to open RFC connections in clients during synchronous calls using the privileges of the RFC user in the client system. A new profile parameter rfc_callback_security_method is used to enable the whitelists which are configured using SM59.

Security Notes and Support Packages
The framework no longer recommends the use of the EarlyWatch Alert and RSECNOTE for the identification of relevant Notes and support packages. Both components have severe drawbacks and are effectively deprecated by SAP. Security Notes and support packages should be identified using System Recommendations accessed through the Change Management Work Center in Solution Manager or via WDC_NOTE_CENTER through the Easy Access Menu.

The SAP Cybersecurity Framework is presented in the white paper Protecting SAP Systems from Cyber Attack.

SAP Security Architects at Layer Seven Security perform comprehensive gap assessments against the recommendations of the SAP Cybersecurity Framework and enable customers to implement defense in depth by hardening the entire SAP technology stack. The layered control strategy supported by the framework is based on best practices and SAP security recommendations and represents the most comprehensive, efficient and cost-effective approach to secure SAP systems from cyber attack. To learn more, contact Layer Seven Security.

New SAP Guidance Recommends Configuration Validation for Security Monitoring

Some of the most critical recommendations issued by SAP in the recently released paper Securing Remote Function Calls include the use of configuration validation in Solution Manager to monitor RFC destination settings. This includes checks for destinations with stored credentials, trusted connections, and authorizations granted to RFC users in target systems. It also includes the review of profile parameters for RFC and secure network communication, as well as access control lists for RFC gateways. The SAP paper lends support for other security functions in Solution Manager such as management dashboards and alerts by pointing out that “an overview of the current security status can be provided in a security dashboard and alerts on noncompliance can be collected in the alert in-box” (p33).

The paper draws together leading practices and SAP recommendations into a single reference document for protecting one of the most vulnerable areas in SAP landscapes that is often targeted by remote attackers. RFC is a proprietary SAP technology that drives cross-system integration. Misconfigurations in RFC destinations and gateways that manage RFC communications can lead to the complete compromise of not just individual SAP systems but entire landscapes. Common mistakes include using destinations with stored logon credentials or trusted connections between systems with differing security classifications, using service or communication user types for RFC destinations rather than system users, granting excessive authorizations to RFC users, failing to limit access to remote-enabled function modules, and non-existent access control lists to control the registration and starting of external RFC servers.

The paper emphasizes the importance of established and well-known counter measures for securing RFCs based on the authorization concept. This includes not granting full access to objects such as R_RFC_ADM, S_RFC_TT, S_ADMI_FCD used to administer RFC destinations and other objects such as S_RFC , S_ICF and S_RFCACL that control access to remote-enabled function modules and logons in trusting systems. The paper also discusses enhancements delivered by SAP in the most recent release of NetWeaver AS ABAP, including unified connectivity (UCON). UCON blocks access to remote-enabled function modules using whitelists configured in so-called communication assemblies. According to SAP, “Typically, less than 5% of all available RFC function modules are used in customer software systems for remote RFC communication” (p14). It also outlines methods for performing short-term and long-term traces to identify authorizations checks performed during the execution of RFC-enabled function modules called remotely. This should be used to reign in access privileges for RFC users. Finally, the paper outlines how to control dangerous RFC callbacks and activate switchable authorization checks that are only enabled in specific RFC scenarios.

Contact an SAP Security Architect at Layer Seven Security for professional services to implement these and related SAP recommendations. Our SAP Cybersecurity Solution includes a gap assessment for all of the recommendations on RFC security issued by SAP in the paper.

To request a copy of the SAP paper Securing Remote Function Calls, email

Featured in SAPinsider: How to Build Security using SAP Solution Manager

Data breaches occur all too often and organizations are frequently left blindsided. As a result, cybersecurity has become a board-level issue across all industries. According to a recent survey of global business leaders, cyber risk is regarded as one of the most significant threats faced by corporations today, and is consistently rated higher than legislation, regulation, and other risks.

Even SAP systems are not immune from the anxiety surrounding cybersecurity. The architecture and complexity of SAP landscapes, as well as the form and volume of data typically managed within SAP systems, makes them targets for attackers. This was illustrated by the discovery of a modified Trojan that was targeting SAP clients in 2013. The malware targeted SAP GUI configuration files and was capable of malicious activities such as logging keystrokes; capturing logon credentials; and identifying, copying, and exporting files.

Responding to such threats is a daunting challenge. However, SAP customers do not have to look far for the tools to secure their systems from cyber threats. In fact, SAP offers a variety of tools with standard license agreements that can be leveraged immediately at zero cost.

Read more at SAPinsider

How to Secure SAP Systems from Password Attacks

Exploiting weak password hashes is one of the most common and successful attack scenarios used against SAP systems. The availability of open-source programs such as Hashcat and John the Ripper enables even novice hackers to perform attacks against SAP passwords. In fact, Hashcat is capable of breaking any SAP password encoded using the BCODE hash algorithm in a maximum of 20 hours, regardless of the length and complexity of the password.

SAP systems support a variety of cryptographic algorithms to convert passwords into hash values. These values are stored in table URS02. This is designed to prevent the storage of passwords in clear-text. During the logon procedure, passwords entered by users are converted to a hash value and compared to the value stored for the user in table USR02. The logon is successful if there is match between the two values.

Since hash algorithms are one-way, it is not possible to calculate passwords from hash values. However, it is possible to compare values generated by tools such as Hashcat to the values stored in SAP tables to break passwords providing both are encoded using the identical algorithm.

Therefore, it is critical to restrict the ability to read and extract password hash values in table USR02. This can be achieved by controlling direct access to database tables through SQL statements using firewall rules. The ability to read tables using generic table browsing tools accessible through transactions SE16, SE17 and SE11 should also be restricted and monitored.

Note that USR02 is not the only table containing password hash values. In some releases, hashes can also be found in tables USH02, USH02_ARC_TMP, VUSER001 and VUSR02_PWD. Such tables should be assigned to the authorization group SPWD (refer to Note 1484692). Access to table USRPWDHISTORY should also be restricted since attackers are often able to guess current passwords based on former passwords if users employ variations of the same password.

There should be similar restrictions on debugging and transport authorizations since these can also be used to access or export SAP tables containing password hashes.

Users with access to multiple systems or systems in different environments should be required to use different passwords for each system and environment. Passwords for productive systems should not be identical to those used to access development or test systems.

SAP password code versions A-E are based on the MD5 hashing algorithm. The hash values generated through this mechanism are stored in the table column BCODE. All MD5 hashes are susceptible to brute force and other password attacks. Code versions F and G use the SHA1 algorithm. SHA1 hashes are stored in the PASSCODE column. They are less vulnerable than MD5 hashes but can be broken if passwords are short and relatively non-complex. The most secure hashing algorithm supported by SAP systems is iterated salted SHA-1 in code version H. This mechanism uses random salts and a higher number of iterations to mitigate password attacks. Iterated salted SHA-1 hash values are stored in PWDSALTEDHASH.

SAP kernels should be upgraded to 7.02 or higher to support PWDSALTEDHASH hash values. For added security, default iterations and salt sizes can be increased using the login/password_hash_algorithm parameter.

Once this is performed, the profile parameter login/password_downwards_compatibility should be set to 0 to ensure only the strongest possible hash values are generated. CUA systems can be excluded from this requirement if they are connected to systems that do not support PWDSALTEDHASH.

The report CLEANUP_PASSWORD_HASH_VALUES should then be run to discover and remove redundant password hashes. There is a clear security risk if this is not performed. Attackers may be able to use passwords encoded in BCODE and PASSCODE hashes if users employ identical or similar passwords encoded in PWDSALTEDHASH.

Enforcing single sign-on (SSO) for all dialog users provides the optimal level of protection against password attacks by removing the need to store hashes altogether. However, once SSO is enabled, direct logons should be blocked through the parameter snc/accept_insecure_gui=U and by ensuring users are not exempted from SSO through settings in user records maintained in the SNC tab of SU01.

Taken together, these countermeasures should safeguard systems from dangerous password attacks aided by well-known and easily accessible tools that can be leveraged to take full control of SAP systems.

Update: A new version of Hashcat capable of cracking SAP code version H password hashes encoded using SHA-1 is currently in beta testing. You can learn more at

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

A Dangerous Flaw in the SAP User Information System (SUIM)

Customers that have yet to implement Security Note 1844202 released by SAP on June 10 should do so immediately. The Note deals with a vulnerability that could be exploited to bypass monitoring controls designed to detect users with privileged access, including the SAP_ALL profile. This profile can be used to provide users with almost all authorizations in SAP systems. The vulnerability arises from a flaw in the coding of the RSUSR002 report accessible through the SAP User Information System (SUIM) or transaction SA38. RSUSR002 is a standard built-in tool used by security administrators and auditors to analyse user authorizations. A side-effect of Note 694250 was the insertion of the following line into the algorithm for RSUSR002:

DELETE userlist WHERE bname = “”

As a result of the insertion, users assigned the name “” are excluded from the search results generated by RSUSR002. This could lead to a scenario in which users are assigned SAP_ALL or equivalent authorizations without detection through regular monitoring protocols. However, the user “” would remain visible in UST04 and other user tables. The implementation of Note 1844202 will close the vulnerability in RSUSR002. Customers can also prevent the assignment of the username “” using customizing lists. For detailed instructions, refer to Note 1731549.

Lessons from the Top Ten Data Breaches of 2012: Defense-in-Depth for SAP Systems

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), there were 680 reported data breaches in 2012 covering all forms of commercial, governmental, educational, medical and non-profit organizations. The breaches are estimated to have compromised over 27M data records.

Top Ten Data Breaches 2012


The most significant breach occurred at VeriSign. Although the extent of the breach has never been disclosed nor, for that matter, the cause, the breach could potentially have an enormous impact on the ability of companies to establish secure connections to intended servers and verify the identity of those servers. This is because VeriSign is one of the principal issuers of SSL certificates used for encryption and mutual authentication. VeriSign also manages 2 of the world’s 13 root DNS servers, which control the complete database of Internet domain names and corresponding IP addresses. Although the breaches occurred during 2010, they were not disclosed by VeriSign until late 2011 when the company reported the incidents in public filings to the SEC. Guidelines issued by the SEC in 2011 now require registrants to “disclose the risk of cyber incidents if these issues are among the most significant factors that make an investment in the company speculative or risky“. A similar breach at the Dutch certificate authority Diginotar led the authority to file for bankruptcy in September 2011.

The second most significant data breach in 2012 was experienced by Global Payments, a large credit and debit card payments processor. The breach appeared to have stemmed from the compromise of servers in the company’s North American network but quickly spread to other areas of the network. According to initial estimates, approximately 1.5M records including Track 2 credit card data (card expiration date and credit card number) were directly exposed by the breach. This was later revised to 7M. Details on the cause of the breach have never been released by Global Payments. However, the company has disclosed that it has invested almost $85M on measures to improve security following the incident.

In the third major breach of 2012, a targeted phishing attack against employees at the South Carolina Department of Revenue led to the theft of usernames and passwords which were used by foreign attackers to access internal systems and other resources through remote services. Shortly thereafter, the attackers extracted over 8GB of data from the company through compressed database backup files. The files contained an estimated 5M social security numbers, 3M bank accounts and almost 400,000 credit card numbers. The attack may have been prevented through two factor authentication on remote access points. Furthermore, the damage would have been far lower had all the targeted data been encrypted.

Personal and financial records were also breached at the University of Nebraska, the fourth incident in the list. Banking information, social security numbers, addresses, grades and transcripts belonging to current and former students may have been compromised during a targeted attack against some of the organization’s databases.

The fifth and sixth incidents in the list did not involve the breach of financial data. However, they did involve the loss of hundred of thousands of customer records including social security numbers, drivers license numbers, dates of birth and employer information. Both breaches were caused by improperly configured servers. In the case of the Utah Department of Health, a default password had not been changed on one of the compromised servers. In both cases, the effected data had not been encrypted.

In the seventh most important data breach of 2012, an undisclosed vulnerability is suspected to have enabled unauthorized read-level access to a subscriber database at Intel. The database stored sensitive customer-related information including passwords, social security and credit card numbers in plain-text. However, there is reason to believe that the vulnerability was relatively short-lived and did not lead to the leakage of mass amounts of data, explaining the relatively low ranking of the incident. The group suspected to be responsible for the breach is also linked to similar breaches at NASA and US Bank in the same year.

The remaining incidents in the list involved the breach of large volumes of customer-specific data including names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses from well-known e-commerce companies. In some cases, credit card data and passwords were also effected but the difference between these incidents and those placed higher on the list lies in the fact that sensitive data was encrypted. LinkedIn, for example, used SHA-1 to encrypt passwords. The exception is Yahoo!: over 400,000 were extracted from the company’s servers in plain-text through a SQL injection attack. All three organizations, Zappos, LinkedIn and Yahoo!, are subject to lawsuits for allegedly failing to properly safeguard user data.

Defense-in-Depth for SAP Systems

The incidents reviewed in this article cover a broad spectrum of organizations and industries. Clearly, the risk of data breach is no longer the sole preserve of e-commerce companies running custom-developed programs accessible to the general public through Web application servers. In fact, the most significant breaches effected enterprise systems designed principally for internal use. This should come as no surprise. Most system landscapes are highly integrated with multiple access points. This presents a large attack surface and provides opportunities to vault from compromised systems to connected systems by exploiting trust relationships and communication pathways required to successfully integrate applications in such landscapes.

SAP landscapes are a prime example of highly integrated environments supporting a variety of services through ports and protocols that include HTTP (80), HTTPS (443) and SMTP (25), commonly used by Web application servers. Therefore, SAP systems must be protected against the identical attack vectors that led to many of the data breaches discussed above. This includes methods such as SQL injection, exploitation of default passwords and configurations, and insecure system interfaces.

Protection should be applied at four distinct levels. The first is the authorization level. SAP systems contain thousands of authorizations that control access to various functions and resources. The improper assignment of authorizations can lead to the accumulation of access rights that may provide users with privileges beyond role requirements. Such privileges may be abused to compromise the confidentiality and integrity of information in SAP systems. Therefore, the proper assignment of authorizations and the maintenance of an adequate segregation of duties is the first pillar of SAP security.

The second area is the platform level which is comprised of two components.  The first component is the secure configuration of the SAP NetWeaver Application Server. This includes network filters that restrict access to SAP services accessible from end-user networks, configuring ACL files for SAP Gateways and Message Servers, enabling SNC and SSL to encrypt network communications, robust password policies, the use of the latest password hashing algorithms, disabling and/or changing passwords for default users, disabling dangerous Web services, securing RFC connections, and regularly patching SAP systems.

The second component of platform level security is the configuration of underlying databases and operating systems in accordance with vendor-specific recommendations or generally-accepted security benchmarks. For example, Oracle databases supporting SAP systems should be secured in accordance with the comprehensive security guides issued by Oracle for each database version. In some cases, vendor-specific recommendations may conflict with SAP requirements. Therefore, recommendations must be applied carefully and selectively, wherever appropriate.

The third area is the program level. SAP programs should be protected against unauthorized changes. Furthermore, custom programs should be developed, tested and deployed in a secure manner to ensure they are not susceptible to code-level vulnerabilities. This includes missing or broken authorization checks, backdoors and rootkits, injection flaws, cross-site scripting, buffer overflows and directory traversals. An effective software development process including requirements for code reviews by appropriately trained resources could meet part of this requirement. However, SAP programs are more effectively controlled through tools that act as a firewall to prevent the deployment of vulnerable code and tools that detect and auto-correct suspicious statements in ABAP code. Currently, the only solution capable of performing both functions is CodeProfiler, developed by Virtual Forge.

The final area of a complete SAP security framework is client-level protection. For SAP GUI, this should include disabling scripting and recording, enabling SNC encryption, and appropriate security module settings. For browser-based access, SAP applications should be located in a trusted zone with less restrictive security settings. This will enable active scripting of Java applets required for certain SAP components without lowering the general security profile of browsers for untrusted connections. Client-level security should also include malware protection, Web filtering and restrictions on the administrative privileges of end-users.

The appropriate management of risks at all four levels in contemporary SAP environments (authorization, platform, program and client) will provide the defense-in-depth required to withstand sophisticated and determined attacks against SAP systems and minimize the risk of a data breach.

The Final Frontier: The Challenges in Developing Secure Custom ABAP Programs

In November, SAP released an unusually high number of Security Notes to patch various forms of injection vulnerabilities in it’s software. The trend continued in December with the release of several patches for code injection flaws in the Computer Center Management System (BC-CCM), Project System (PS-IS),  Transport Organizer (BC-CTS-ORG) and work processes in Application Servers responsible for executing ABAP programs (BC-CST). Given this alarming trend, this article is focused on discussing the challenges of developing secure ABAP programs for SAP systems, free of common vulnerabilities including not only injection flaws, but cross-site scripting errors, buffer overflows, directory traversals and backdoors and rootkits.

There are three attack surfaces in SAP systems. The first is through improperly defined and controlled application-level access. This attack surface is the most commonly known and understood by SAP customers. Today, most SAP clients deploy any one of a variety of access management tools to control access to sensitive functions and maintain a strict segregation of duties in their ERP systems. This manages the risk of unauthorized access through inadequate authorization structures that grant excessive or conflicting privileges to users and administrators.

The second attack surface lies at the platform level. This generally refers to components of the NetWeaver Application Server, also referred to as the Basis area of SAP systems. The NetWeaver AS is the technical foundation of the entire SAP software stack. It provides the runtime environment for SAP applications and includes work processes for ABAP and Java programs, gateways and modules for managing RFC, Web-based and other forms of communication protocols, tools to manage user roles, profiles and authorizations, and utilities that control certain database and operating system functions. The secure configuration and management of the NetWeaver AS is a vital component of a comprehensive SAP security strategy. However, the results of our security assessments repeatedly reveal common vulnerabilities in basis settings in most SAP environments. This provides a lush attack surface to internal and external attackers looking for an avenue to manipulate or appropriate business data or deliberately disrupt the availability of SAP systems.

The third and final attack surface in SAP provides an even greater array of opportunities for attackers. This surface exists at the program level. ERP systems such as SAP are designed to perform thousands of distinct functions ranging from, for example, adding a vendor to a list of approved suppliers, performing a transport to implement a change in a specific system, or encrypting/ decrypting traffic between servers or clients. These functions are performed by programs stored in the database table known as REPOSRC that are called when requested by work processes in the NetWeaver AS.

SAP programs are developed using two distinct programming languages: Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) and Java.  Both are vulnerable to coding errors that could expose SAP programs to exploits such as code, OS and SQL injection, cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, buffer overflow, directory traversal and denial of service. SAP programs are also susceptible to missing or broken authority-checks that could lead to unauthorized execution of programs. Finally, SAP programs can contain backdoors through hardcoded credentials that bypass regular authentication and authorization controls, as well as malware known as rootkits that provide attackers with remote, privileged access to system functions and resources.

SAP performs a rigorous code review for all standard or delivered programs prior to release. However, some of the vulnerabilities present in the code base are not detected and patched until after release. Security Notes are therefore an important mechanism used by SAP to patch vulnerabilities arising from programming errors.

Custom programs are rarely subject to the same level of scrutiny applied by SAP to standard programs. Programs developed by in-house or off-shore developers to meet the needs of customers not met by standard SAP functionality are often laden with vulnerabilities that, when exploited, undermine the integrity of entire SAP landscapes. Such landscapes are only as strong as their weakest point. A robust application layer fortified with GRC tools has led attackers to shift their focus to the platform and code level. Given the relative openness of most SAP systems at the technical level, the strategy is proving to be profitable.

SAP has responded by issuing a series of recommendations to customers to strengthen configuration settings in components of the NetWeaver AS. These can be found in the whitepaper Secure Configuration of the SAP NetWeaver Application Server Using ABAP.

However, understandably SAP is less vocal on development procedures for custom programs since this is generally the responsibility of each SAP customer. The challenge should not be underestimated. Although manual code reviews to detect common vulnerabilities are theoretically possible, the skill-set to effectively review custom code is not only rare but expensive. Furthermore, it often leads to an increase in development time. Customers should consider investing in code scanning tools that are tuned to detect suspicious statements in ABAP code and integrate directly into the SAP Transport Management System (TMS). Such tools should also be capable of auto-correcting ABAP statements to minimize resource requirements and the impact on existing development times. Presently, the only tool capable of detecting and auto-correcting vulnerabilities in custom ABAP programs, with direct integration with SAP TMS, is Virtual Forge CodeProfiler. To arrange a security scan of custom programs in your SAP environment using CodeProfiler, please contact a representative at Layer Seven Security.

Security Researchers Expose a Dangerous Authentication Bypass in Oracle Databases

More than two-thirds of mid to large SAP customers in every industry run their SAP applications with Oracle databases. Oracle’s success is driven by compatibility and performance. Oracle 11.2 is certified for use with Unix, Linux and Windows-based SAP environments and provides features such as self-tuning, sophisticated partitioning and advanced data compression that give Oracle an edge over the competition including, in some cases, SAP’s own databases.

Oracle’s achilles heel is security. Earlier this year, the company released 78 patches to address vulnerabilities across its product range including MySQL and Oracle RDMBS. One in five of the vulnerabilities were classified as critical since they could be exploited remotely against firewalled, internal networks. Last month, Oracle issued a warning related to a major SQL injection vulnerability affecting some versions of its database servers. The CVE-2012-3132 exploit could enable attackers to gain administrative privileges in servers and therefore disclose, modify or remove data managed by such servers.

Oracle suffered another blow last week when researcher Esteban Fayo of AppSec Inc. successfully demonstrated a proof-of-concept attack against an Oracle database at the Ekoparty security conference using a stealth password cracking exploit. The exploit targets the Oracle login system through a cryptographic flaw in the hash used to encrypt passwords that are leaked in session keys generated by the database. The keys are sent to users during every logon attempt. Remote attackers can use an Oracle desktop client to establish a network connection with a database server. Once connected, they can attempt to authenticate against the server using a valid username. The server will return a session key to the attacker before the authentication process is complete. At this point, the attacker will close the connection and attempt to decrypt the hash using brute-force password cracking software. Short, non-complex passwords can be decrypted relatively quickly using a standard CPU. Since the hashes contain a random salt, attackers can’t use rainbow tables. However, they can use methods such as dictionary hybrid attacks for faster decryption. Also, since failed logon attempts are not recorded by the server, attackers can bypass controls that lock accounts after a certain number of failed access attempts.

A strong firewall policy that blocks remote access to databases may provide some defense against external attacks. However, it will not guard against internal threats including remote attackers with access to network resources inside corporate networks through malware or other methods. The vulnerability effects releases 1 and 2 of the Oracle database version 11g. Oracle has released a new authentication protocol for version 11.2. However, the company hasn’t patched the vulnerability in 11.1 nor released any plans to do so. Since older versions are not vulnerable to the exploit, SAP customers working with Oracle 11.1 should consider switching to authentication protocols used in versions such as 10g. Alternatively, they should consider removing 11g hashes. This will prompt the database to use hashes stored for earlier versions. Customers should also enforce requirements for alpha numeric passwords with a minimum of nine characters. Complex passwords are less susceptible to brute force attacks.