What’s New in the SAP Cybersecurity Framework 3.0

Released earlier this month, the third version of the SAP Cybersecurity Framework includes important changes in the areas of transport layer security, logging and monitoring, and vulnerability management. It also discusses the most significant hack against SAP systems to date: the devastating data breach suffered by U.S Investigation Services (USIS). USIS performed background checks on prospective federal employees for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other government agencies before it’s contracts were severed after the announcement of the breach in 2015.

The breach is estimated to have impacted the personal information of up to 20 million individuals. According to the findings of an internal forensic investigation, attackers were able to breach systems at USIS by exploiting an undisclosed vulnerability in a connected SAP ERP system sometime in 2013. The attack went unnoticed by intrusion detection and other network-level monitoring devices.  The specific vulnerability exploited by the attackers has been the subject of widespread speculation by security researchers. Some have argued that the breach was caused by a brute-force password attack. Others have pointed towards RFC exploits or unapplied security patches. The source of the breach could have been any one of these or a combination of other vulnerabilities. The wide attack surface presented by SAP systems makes it impossible to pinpoint the root cause without access to the log data. Regardless, the breach demonstrated the destruction that can be wrought by successful attacks against vulnerable SAP systems. The contracts lost by USIS as a direct result of the attack were valued at $3 billion. The organization laid off 2500 workers and filed for bankruptcy shortly after the public announcement of the breach.

For transport layer security, the framework has been updated in line with RFC 7568 issued by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for deprecating Secure Sockets Layer Version 3 (SSL v3). SSL was the standard protocol for securing Web-based communication between clients and servers. Support for SSL has been gradually waning as a result of the growing awareness of weaknesses in its encryption scheme and key exchange mechanism. The POODLE vulnerability proved to be the final straw since it could be exploited to break encrypted SSL sessions and access sensitive data passed within such sessions including cookies, passwords and tokens.

The new version of the Framework includes an improved section on Read Access Logging (RAL). RAL should be configured to log access and changes by unauthorized users for sensitive data fields in SAP systems. This includes fields for banking, credit card and salary data. Exclusion lists can be maintained to rule out logging for authorized users. Together with the updated framework, you can also refer to an earlier Layer Seven article on protecting sensitive data in SAP systems using RAL for more information.

Lastly, much of the technical jargon related to Configuration Validation (ConVal) in earlier versions has been removed to focus on the core use-case for ConVal. ConVal is a powerful vulnerability management framework included in SAP Solution Manager that is recommended by SAP for managing vulnerabilities in SAP systems.

Since licensing for Solution Manager is included in SAP support and maintenance agreements, ConVal provides the most cost-effective alternative to third party tools.

You can download version 3 of the SAP Cybersecurity Framework in the whitepaper Protecting SAP Systems from Cyber attack from the Resources section.

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