Alex Horan is a Product Manager at Onapsis Inc. where he is responsible for the development of ERP vulnerability assessment, testing and securing solutions. Alex has over 15 years of experience working within the IT security industry, covering both software and hardware. As a result he brings a deep knowledge and understanding of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, as well as systems and network administration and auditing to his work at Onapsis. Alex has previously worked for mid- and large-sized companies helping to design and maintain their security posture.
Different software companies take different approaches to the security of their products after they have been sold to their customers. Some would prefer it if previously released software had no security research attention paid to it where as others take a more realistic and therefore positive (to their customers) attitude. This positive approach is not only to provide their customers with security guidance for each component but to also release vulnerability information to them along with patches or remediation information in a regular and predictable way that allows their customers to anticipate and plan for application of remediation.
SAP falls into the positive camp; as well as releasing vulnerability information for HANA and other SAP components on the second Tuesday of every month they also publish security guidance for best practices to securely install and maintain HANA deployments.
Now, you could try and argue that the ultimate best practice is for SAP to release completely perfect and secure code and products; and to not allow their customers to reconfigure it so it can run in an insecure manor. That and unicorn hamburgers would be fantastic; but I am not holding my breath for either to present itself to me any time soon…
For those of us old hands in the security industry we know that when security is done right processes flow smoothly, issues are rare, identified and mitigated before there is any real public perception of the potential for an issue; and businesses continue to achieve their goals of profitability and sustainability. In those circumstances security is often invisible; leading those not connected to the security team to speculate quietly or loudly about the value or worth of the security team to the business.
When security is done poorly the results are obvious and painful. Publicly announced loss of customer information or intellectual property; inefficient processes and costly internal remediation to shore up holes that are identified. Worse still is the effect on the relationship between security and the business; because security isn’t seen for the enablement function it can be the security team may have to force itself into projects – trying to force consistency and security where it didn’t previously exist. Because those (unfortunate) security teams are playing catchup the recommendations delivered for projects often come at the end of the project, causing delays in go-live dates and increased project costs. As a result the security team is seen as the “no-team”, gaining a negative imagine within the organization. So teams with projects try to hide them from security, only disclosing them to security at the last possible minute – causing the cycle of “security team generated delays” to continue.
When I am at conferences a common theme from my peers is to discuss how we can better show the business the positive results that a healthy relationship with security can bring. From more efficient processes, decreased risk and a healthier bottom line; consistently and intelligently applied security has numerous benefits any intelligent business would want to reap.
SAP is a company that understand the importance of security to its customers. It has introduced a regular monthly cycle of releasing patches, notes and other information about new vulnerabilities that effect their software components. Also, SAP proactively publishes security guidance for SAP software; providing customers with the information they need to ensure they are doing all they can to secure their SAP installations.
And for good reason, I am not sure it is possible to calculate the value of the business processed and enabled by SAP systems every day; but given the range of companies that run SAP I am sure it is a more than respectable percentage of the world’s GDP.
As means of a background, I have been in the security field, specifically the pro-active testing (penetration testing) side of security for over a decade. As part of my role I would present at public and private conferences, helping to educate organizations about the benefits of pen testing or helping to educate pen testing teams about the latest techniques.
I say all of this in order to communicate that I would grade myself as having an above average knowledge of the security space and significant familiarity with commonly used terms in the industry. So when I recently took a product manager roles at Onapsis and was told I would have to learn about SAP and the security and risk implications around SAP in the enterprise I smiled and thought “well, I guess I know what I am doing the first couple of days”. As it turns out SAP is a world unto itself, with a lot of history and complexity.
This blog is the second in a series that documents the self-education that I have been undertaking as I learn about SAP, assessing the security of a SAP system and then implementing secure practices.
As I mentioned in my first post in this series, the typical reaction of a business when asked about the security of their SAP systems is to refer to the SoD checks they do. That is the testing they do to ensure proper Segregation of Duties is enforced; which is, the system has the logic in place to prevent fraud – so the person who submits an expense report cannot approve it as well, for example.
Given 10 years of dealing with buffer overflows, ClientSide attacks, SQLi and numerous other ways to exploit weaknesses in how systems have been coded and implemented, I was more than a little surprised to learn that the testing of the underlying SAP applications and their configuration was not common practice.
There are numerous presentations and articles online that talk about the day SAP released 500 notes; and those that talk about the current rate at which SAP releases their notes. Suffice it to say that SAP is a large and mature technology that has the typical amount of issues of any large and mature technology.
As means of a background, I have been in the security field, specifically the pro-active testing (penetration testing) side of security for over a decade. As part of my past role, I would present at public and private conferences, helping to educate organizations about the benefits of pen testing or helping to educate pen testing teams about the latest techniques.
I say all of this in order to communicate that I would grade myself as having an above average knowledge of the security space and significant familiarity with commonly used terms in the industry. So when I recently took a product manager role at Onapsis and was told I would have to learn about SAP and the security and risk implications around SAP in the enterprise I smiled and thought “well, I guess I know what I am doing the first couple of days”. As it turns out SAP is a world unto itself, with a lot of history and complexity.
I know that more and more ‘traditional’ security professionals are being asked to evaluate the security posture and risk of a business’s SAP system; which makes sense as SAP typically runs the most critical processes and workflows for an organization, as well as housing the most important data. Given the amount of time and effort it is taking me to learn SAP I thought it would be beneficial to publish a little resource for other professionals making the same jump.
So, SAP? For those like me who need to know what an acronym stands for it is Systems, Applications and Products in data processing, also it is never said as a single word, but spelled out S-A-P. It started in and is still based in Germany and according to Wikipedia has a revenue of over 16 billion Euro in 2012 – so not a small company by any stretch of the imagination.