Layer Seven Security

Cybersecurity Threats to SAP Systems Report

Earlier this month, SAPinsider released the 2023 Cybersecurity Threats to SAP Systems Report. Co-sponsored by Layer Seven Security, the report is based on the findings of a survey of more than 205 security professionals in North America, EMEA, APJ, and LATAM, representing SAP customers across nine industries.

The report revealed several trends in 2023 compared to reports for earlier years. Similar to 2022, respondents ranked unpatched systems, ransomware attacks, and credentials compromise as the most significant threats to SAP systems. The exploitation of system interfaces and weak access controls were also identified as important but less significant threats.

Patching and updating SAP systems and enforcing secure password policies were reported as the most important requirements for SAP cybersecurity. Protecting SAP systems from zero-days threats was also identified as an important requirement, even though there is no evidence of the successful exploitation of any zero-day vulnerability for SAP solutions.

This article provides practical recommendations for managing the top five threats to SAP systems presented in the report. The recommendations can be implemented using a combination of the Cybersecurity Extension for SAP and SAP ALM platforms such as Solution Manager, Focused Run, and Cloud ALM. According to the report, 81% of customers are using one or more of these platforms. However, less than half of SAP customers are fully leveraging the capabilities of their ALM investments.

Security Patching

Keeping up with patches is the most significant cybersecurity challenge reported by SAP customers. This is due to reasons such as the volume of patches, difficulties with prioritizing notes and scheduling system downtimes, the reluctance to apply notes that could impact system availability, and issues validating whether patches are correctly implemented. The last is especially challenging for notes with manual corrections.

System Recommendations (SysRec) in SAP Solution Manager automates the discovery and implementation of security notes for SAP solutions. It calculates relevant notes based on the installed software components and versions in systems. Notes can be filtered by priority to focus on hot news and high priority patches. SysRec also identifies objects impacted by security notes and provides usage counts for the objects. This can be used to develop targeted test plans based on the known impact of security notes. Notes impacting unused objects can be implemented with minimal testing.

Automated corrections can be downloaded through SysRec and staged in systems for implementation. Once implemented successfully, the relevant notes are automatically removed from the SysRec results. The implementation status of notes with manual corrections can be maintained using the Status option. False positives in SysRec can occur if notes are released by SAP without software component information. The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP (CES) automatically discovers and removes the false positives to improve the quality and reliability of notes reported by SysRec.


Ransomware can target SAP applications through multiple a­ttack vectors. Unauthorized external program starts through the gateway server should be restricted using the secinfo access control list. Authorizations for OS commands should be restricted. This includes authorizations for RSBDCOS0, SM49 and CG3Z which can be used to download, install and run ransomware tools. Custom ABAP, UI5, Java and SQLScript programs may be exploited to perform arbitrary OS commands. Vulnerable programs can be discovered using code vulnerability scanning solutions. Vulnerable ICF services such as SOAP RFC and WEB RFC should be disabled. The SAP Virus Scan Interface should be enabled to support the detection of malware in file uploads and the propagation of ransomware through file downloads.

Ransomware can also target hosts supporting SAP applications. Therefore, it is important to secure and monitor the operating system layer in SAP systems. Unnecessary ports and services should be closed. Root commands and sudo actions should be closely monitored, particularly wget and bash commands, and the creation and execution of OS files.  The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP is the only security solution that protects and detects against ransomware across application, database and OS layers in SAP systems.

Credentials Compromise

Transport layer security using SNC and SSL for SAP protocols will protect encoded SAP passwords in client-server and server-server communications. Access to password hashes in SAP tables should be restricted and monitored. Downwards-compatible passwords should be disabled since this will prevent the storage of password hashes that use vulnerable algorithms. Strong password policies should be enforced using the relevant settings in systems including login parameters in ABAP systems. Session management should be enabled and logon tickets and cookies should be secured against misuse. Detection and alerting for SAP accounts that may have been compromised can be activated using Anomaly Detection in the Cybersecurity Extension for SAP. Anomaly Detection will detect for unusual user actions such logins from new terminals or IP addresses for each user and the execution of transactions and reports that are not typically accessed by users.

System Interfaces

Program starts, server registrations, and monitor commands should be restricted for the gateway server. The use of RFC destinations with stored credentials should be restricted. The authorizations for RFC users should be provisioned based on the principle of least privilege to minimize the impact if RFC accounts are compromised. RFC user accounts should be system or communication user types, not dialog or reference. Positive whitelists are recommended to prevent the misuse of RFC callbacks. Trusted RFC connections should be used only in the required scenarios and trust relationships should not be configured from lower to higher order environments.

Unified Connectivity (UCON) should be enabled and configured to protect external calls to sensitive remote-enabled function modules (RFMs). Requests blocked by UCON are logged in the Security Audit Log.

Interface and Connection Monitoring (ICMon) in SAP Solution Manager and Integration and Exception Monitoring in SAP Focused Run can be deployed to identify critical internal and external system interfaces. This includes RFC, HTTP, Cloud, IDoc, and Web Service connections. Alerts can be configured for the usage of system interfaces outside of normal scenarios. For example, customers can enable alerting for an RFC destination if it used by a user not included in a permitted whitelist or if the destination is used to call RFMs that are not typically called by the destination. Similar alerting can be enabled for calls to applications, IDocs, cloud services and web services accessed using non-RFC protocols.

Access Controls

Access to administrative profiles, roles, authorizations and transactions should be restricted. This includes roles and permissions in SAP databases and hosts. The SAP_ALL profile should not be used in productive systems. Standard users should be locked and default passwords should be changed. Authorization checks should be enforced for all RFMs and system operations. Switchable authorization checks should be enabled wherever applicable to secure access to sensitive function modules. Conflicting functions should be assigned to separate users to enforce the segregation of duties. This includes user creation/ role maintenance, role maintenance/ role assignment, and transport creation/ transport release.

The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP can be used to discover users with administrative permissions or access to conflicting functions. It can also alert for the execution of sensitive programs, reports and transactions. Exclusions can be maintained for specific users or based on factors such as user group to support whitelisting and prevent false positives or alert flooding.

Configuration and Security Analytics with SAP Focused Run

SAP Focused Run supports real-time monitoring for high-volume SAP landscapes and customers with advanced requirements for system management, user and integration monitoring, and vulnerability management. Configuration and Security Analytics (CSA) in SAP Focused Run applies security policies to  discover vulnerabilities in SAP systems. The policies read the contents of configuration, software and user-related stores in the Configuration and Change Database (CCDB). The CCDB stores are refreshed daily using the Simple Diagnostics Agent (SDA), installed in SAP systems monitored by Focused Run.

This article explores capabilities in CSA for tuning security checks using exclusions, configuring alerts for critical vulnerabilities, and investigating security-related changes reported by CSA.

Exclusions can be applied to exclude specific checks in security policies. In the example below, we have applied an exclusion to exclude a check that validates the status of the standard DDIC user. The first step is to open to CSA in the Advanced Configuration Monitoring workgroup.

The next step is to select the relevant policy and select Exemption for Policies.

Select Create to add the exemption. Select the Check ID based on the available checks in the policy and add an Exception ID and Description.

You can add a date range if the exclusion is temporary and should be automatically removed after a target date. Once saved, the check will be excluded from the policy. Exemptions can be maintained and deleted after they are applied.

Alerts for systems that fail checks in security policies can be configured using Configuration Validation Alert Management.

Select Create and add an Alert ID and Description. The Alert Source should be set to Configuration Validation – Policy. Select the Policy and maintain options for Aggregation Level, Scope, Frequency and Severity. Select ON and click on Save to activate the alert.

Alerts can be configured for specific systems or groups based on Customer ID, Data Center, IT Admin Role, Lifecyle Status, or Networks.

IT Admin Role can be used to apply alerts for systems based on environments.

Email and SMS options for alert notifications can be maintained using Outbound Variants.

Alerts can be investigated and managed using Alert Management. In the example below, we can see the alert configured in CSA for changes to standard users. Alerts in Alert Management be integrated with SIEM and service desk solutions. For detailed information, refer to the SAP Help Portal.

Changes in SAP systems are captured and logged in CSA. This includes areas such as parameter settings, RFC destinations, ICF services, and user authorizations, profiles, roles, and transactions. The details of the changes can be viewed using the option to display change of configuration items. Select a time frame for changes using Time Frame Selection.

You can also maintain a custom time frame.

Select a system to view to view a summary of the changes.

Select a store to view the details of changes. In the example below, we can see the details of users that were assigned the SAP_ALL profile in a system over the last three months.

The details can be filtered, sorted and exported to Excel.

The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP integrates with CSA in Focused Run to apply thousands of security checks for known vulnerabilities in SAP solutions. It also integrates with System Monitoring in Focused Run to detect and alert for more than 600 indicators of compromise in SAP event logs. To learn how you can protect your SAP systems from cyber threats using the Cybersecurity Extension for SAP, contact Layer Seven Security.

Security Alerting with SAP Focused Run

SAP Focused Run provides real-time application monitoring, alerting and analytics for large-scale SAP landscapes and hosting providers. It leverages SAP HANA to support centralized monitoring for up to thousands of systems in high-volume environments. Focused Run is intended to complement Solution Manager in SAP landscapes by substituting configuration, integration, system, and user monitoring scenarios from SolMan. Solution Manager is required for all other scenarios including change management, patch management, custom code management, business process monitoring, service management, and test management.

This article explores the alerting capabilities of SAP Focused Run using the workgroups Advanced System Management and Advanced Event & Alert Management.

Similar to SAP Solution Manager, Focused Run includes preconfigured monitoring templates and data providers for SAP platforms and solutions including ABAP, HANA, and Java. It also includes database and host templates for monitoring SAP infrastructure.  The standard metrics and alerts within the SAP-delivered templates include content for monitoring the availability and performance of SAP applications, components, agents, interfaces and infrastructure.

The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP extends the coverage of SAP Focused Run to include security monitoring.  The SAP-certified addon provides more than 500 metrics and alerts for detecting indicators of compromise in SAP logs. This includes ABAP logs such as the Security Audit Log, Gateway Server Log, HTTP Log, System Log, Transaction Log, Read Access Log, and Change Documents. It also includes support for the Audit Log in HANA platforms. The current version of the Cybersecurity Extension for SAP supports ABAP and HANA platforms. Future releases are expected to support Java systems and operating system logs in Linux hosts.

Alerts can be accessed using Alert Management in the Advanced Event & Alert Management workgroup.

Focused Run supports the grouping of systems into Customer IDs. This can be used to segment results for business units. Alert Management will summarize the results for the Customer IDs selected during the initial selection screen.

You can select the list view to display the current alerts.

You can open and view the details of alerts in the list. The example below is an alert triggered in a managed system for changes performed for the roles assigned to the standard SAP* user.

The Metrics tab includes information related to underlying event including the event timestamp, source IP, target IP, and user information. This information can be automatically integrated with Security Information Event Management (SIEM) systems. Notifications can be also sent for alerts through email or SMS using the Send Notification option in the Actions menu.

Alert Reporting in Alert Management provides a dashboard for monitoring alerts by date, category and systems.

Alerts can be also managed using System Monitoring in the Advanced System Management workgroup.

System Monitoring includes an Alert Ticker in the right pane that displays the latest alerts in real time.

The application also includes a hierarchal view for displaying alerts by managed object type including systems, application servers, instances, databases and hosts.

Security Analytics with SAP Focused Run

SAP Focused Run delivers real-time application monitoring, alerting and analytics for large-scale SAP landscapes and hosting providers that need to monitor customer SAP installations from a central platform. It leverages the power of SAP HANA to support centralized monitoring for thousands of systems in high-volume environments. Focused Run is intended to complement SAP Solution Manager in SAP landscapes by substituting configuration, integration, system, and user monitoring scenarios from SolMan. However, Solution Manager is required for all other scenarios including change management, patch management, custom code management, business process monitoring, service management, and test management.

This article explores the capabilities of the Advanced Configuration Monitoring (ACM) scenario in Focused Run. Scenarios such as Advanced Event and Alert Management (AEM), Advanced Integration Monitoring (AIM) and Advanced User Monitoring (AUM) will be discussed in later posts. ACM includes Configuration and Security Analytics (CSA), accessed from the Fiori launchpad of Focused Run. CSA enables SAP users to analyze the configuration of applications, databases and hosts and automate audits for security compliance. The following short video from SAP provides a quick introduction to CSA: Advanced Configuration Monitoring

CSA analyzes configuration data collected and transferred via the Simple Diagnostics Agent (SDA) from SAP systems. Focused Run does not include a built-in Business Warehouse (BW). Therefore, unlike Solution Manager, configuration data is stored in HANA database tables starting with CCDB_DATA_ rather than BW InfoCubes.  This simplifies the architecture and improves the performance for configuration analysis. The tables are read by the Configuration and Change Database (CCDB). Configuration changes are tracked to support change and trend analysis. This includes changes to security-relevant parameters, services, RFC destinations, and user privileges. The CCDB contains snapshots of SAP systems. The configuration data is structured in containers known as config stores. The stores can be updated every hour to maintain up-to-date snapshots of SAP systems. The stores can be queried using the search option in CSA. The config store below displays the current values for all profile parameters in system FR1.

The following store contains details of user assigned critical profiles. User related stores can be customized to extract details for specific profiles, roles, user types, authorizations, and combinations of roles and authorizations.

CSA can be used to configure and apply policies that analyze config stores to audit systems and automate compliance checks. Policy Maintenance in CSA enables users to create XML policies. Policies can also be converted from target systems in Configuration Validation from SAP Solution Manager. Policies can be exported and imported as XML files or transported between Focused Run installations. SAP recommends limiting the number of checks in single policies to 100 to restrict the number of SQL statements. However, single policies can be combined into composite policies to execute thousands of checks in parallel. In the example below, the composite policy ABAP Parameters includes multiple single policies for reviewing security-relevant parameters in ABAP systems.

In order to apply a generated single or composite policy to audit SAP systems, you must first define the scope of systems. Systems can be grouped by Customer ID, Data Center, IT Admin Role (Environment) and other variables (see below). Customer ID can be used to group systems by company or business group.

The next step is to select and apply the required single or composite policy. The results below summarize the compliance status of systems in the L7_FRUN group against the ABAP Parameters composite policy.

Users can drilldown into the findings for each system to focus on parameters that failed the policy check.

You can click on the icon at the end of each rule to view further details.

The current value of the parameter is displayed in the Value column. The results can be exported to Excel for offline analysis.

Policy checks can be scheduled for hourly, daily or weekly intervals in Policy Management.

The results of the scheduled checks can be displayed in Trend Analysis. This provides a graphical analysis of compliance levels for each interval of the report.

Focused Run does not include the equivalent of System Recommendations in SAP Solution Manager for discovering and applying security notes. SAP periodically publishes policies for security notes to GitHub. The policies can be downloaded and imported into Focused Run to check for the implementation status of relevant notes in each system. This approach can lead to inconsistencies between System Recommendations and Focused Run since calculated notes may not align between the solutions. The Cybersecurity Extension for SAP Focused Run from Layer Seven Security integrates System Recommendations with Focused Run to ensure calculated notes are consistent between both platforms. The CSA policy below displays all security notes calculated by System Recommendations. The results can be filtered by system and priority. With this approach, SAP customers do not need to manually update FRUN with new policies for security notes. Calculated notes are updated automatically daily.

The beta release of the Cybersecurity Extension for SAP Focused Run is scheduled for Q3 2022 and will include additional config stores to supplement the security content in the CCDB, preconfigured single and composite policies for ABAP, HANA and Java systems, and monitoring templates to support alerting for SAP logs including the Security Audit Log and the HANA audit log.