Security Geeks Introduction to SAP

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.

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Securing SAP Mobile Platforms: Beyond the Device

Mobile security is definitely a hot topic in our industry. However, it’s quite hard to find people talking about mobile security beyond managing/securing the device itself. Most industry solutions are focused in deploying a secure BYOD strategy and ensuring the devices cannot be exploited with malware.

While this approach is highly important, I have found it difficult to find solutions that actually look at the security of the backend servers that are used by such mobile devices. These servers vary from simple Apache, IIS or Tomcat application servers with Web mobile apps to highly proprietary components.

If your company is using SAP mobile applications in you employees’ tablets or smartphones, then you have SAP servers exposed to the Internet to serve such devices, which already puts them in a more risky situation (Internal threats mentioned on previous blog). With 6000+ customers already using them and being one of the fastest growing product line for SAP AG, it’s highly likely that you are or soon will be empowering your users with SAP-branded apps.

In this scenario, an attacker only needs to perform an external scan to discover such components, and – be sure about it – he is not limited to the functionality that the SAP mobile app is providing your users. He can interface with such SAP servers with a variety of attack tools and try to exploit vulnerabilities in them. The result? He may be able to compromise your entire SAP infrastructure, remotely over the Internet.

This was a growing concern in many of our leading customers, and I’m glad to announce that we responded quickly: Onapsis X1 is now the first-and-only product in the market equipped to detect & assess vulnerabilities affecting SAP Mobile Platforms (Sybase Unwired Platforms), SAP NetWeaver Gateway and SAP Fiori apps.

We are going to be showcasing this new version at booth #231 during the Black Hat Conference this month in Las Vegas as well as hosting a 2 day SAP Security In-Depth training.

Remember that your mobile apps are probably connecting to a backend system in your network. If it’s SAP, we got you covered.


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External vs Insider Threats: Why there are no “internal” SAP systems

I would like to reflect on a common situation that I have repeatedly heard over the past few years when talking and training on the topic of SAP security:

When I ask the question:

  • “How are you dealing with the cyber-threats affecting your SAP platform?”

Most commonly I get the answer:

  • “Oh, our SAP system is internal, so we are fine.”

I humbly believe that many people have a misconception about this statement, and it is about time that we clarify that the old paradigm of “external vs. internal” has not applied in information security for a long time. It doesn’t apply when we talk about networks, and therefore, it does not apply when we talk about threats. And specifically, it does not apply to SAP environments.

Let’s analyze why:

  1. Who’s on your “local” network? Several decades ago your local network would only be hosting very few and trustworthy employees. Today, the local network must be considered as harmful as any other untrusted network. Surprisingly, many large organizations still have the SAP platform deployed in networks which are directly reachable from the end-user network (no internal DMZ), significantly increasing the attack surface.

Furthermore, because most large organizations are outsourcing the management of their SAP platforms to 3rd party contractors, less controls can be enforced. Just in the last training we held at Black Hat USA, three students commented privately that they had suffered a breach in their SAP systems, having a disgruntled outsourced contractor as the perpetrator.  

  1. That one application. It’s not rare to hear from Information Security peers that they were not aware (most of the time, were not informed) of that one application that actually exposes SAP components to suppliers, partners or customers. Because of modern business requirements, many SAP systems are effectively used to provide online access to business processes, usually through Web applications (could be running on top of SAP itself) or Mobile platforms.
  1. Your internal users have email access. Even if there is no SAP Web application to exploit directly, malicious attackers would of course not give up. For several years now, they would just use client-side exploits in spear phishing attacks: sending malware through a malicious PDF or MS Office document to any internal employee. Upon opening it, your internal user would surrender the entire “local” network to an attacker who may be sitting thousands of miles away. From there, the attacker has effectively established a presence inside your network and can just fire at will at the SAP systems (back to point 1!).
  1. Your SAP system is online. I’m sorry for the bad news, but don’t kill the messenger. SAP AG provides support services (such as EarlyWatch) remotely from specific locations. In order for them to do so, you need to deploy a component called SAProuter that will proxy the remote support connections to your “internal” SAP systems.

Ideally, it should be set up through a VPN connection with SAP AG only, but more often than not it’s possible to find them directly exposed to the Internet. An unsecured SAProuter could be completely exposing your SAP platform to the world. Read this SAP Security In-Depth publication for more information regarding the SAProuter.

In order to mitigate the risks that affect our SAP platform, we first need to understand the threats we are facing. We need to accept that our SAP systems are in fact connected to rouge and untrusted networks. With that mindset change, we can then analyze how to holistically protect it from cyber-attacks.



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