Application Security

8/2/2016
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Awareness Improving But Security Still Lags For SAP Implementations

SAP ecosystem a huge Achilles heel for enterprise system security, report says.

While SAP makes some of the most business-critical applications used by enterprises today, it has taken some time for the IT world to get serious about securing SAP infrastructure. In the wake of a several high-profile incidents involving SAP over the past year -- and an increasing focus by analysts on SAP defense issues -- SAP awareness is at an all-time high in 2016. But the statistics show that there's a lot of work to do in order to turn that awareness into meaningful protection for business-critical applications.

So says a new report out this week by ERPScan, which takes an in-depth look at the state of threats and protections around the global SAP ecosystem. As the report notes, 90% of the Fortune 2000 uses SAP and last year there were vulnerabilities in almost every SAP module, with CRM carrying the bulk of reported vulnerabilities. The footprint for possible SAP system exposure continues to grow beyond the traditional triumvirate of customer resource planning (CRM), supplier relationship management (SRM), and enterprise resource management (ERP) the firm is known for as it expands into IoT connections and mobility through its SAP HANA and SAP Mobile apps. As an example, a recent issue in SAP Mobile affected over a million mobile devices in 2015.

The firm reports that there are three big factors that make it difficult for enterprises to get SAP security under control. The first is a lack of qualified specialists in the field of protecting SAP. These applications are typically run by SAP specialists who often operate with dotted-line reporting to IT, outside the typical control of IT security teams. These specialists have very little security experience, and at the same time "security officers hardly understand SAP threats, not to mention methods and approaches of preventing them," the report notes.

Meanwhile, most SAP systems are highly flexible with a wide range of advanced configurations available -- there are more than 1,000 parameters in a standard system configuration alone, so there is no one gold standard for proper builds. Adding even more complication is the fact that these systems are usually very extensible and customized, with lots of home-brewed applications built on top of them.

As a result, it should hardly be a surprise that not only are there vulnerabilities in the software but many implementations are flawed from a security perspective. According to ERPScan, its scans of the worldwide SAP global landscape shows more than 36,000 SAP systems vulnerable to some kind of vulnerability or configuration issue. Of those, 69% shouldn't even be available directly through the internet, and yet they are.

These kinds of flaws are starting to gain the attention of attackers, who are recognizing the inherent vulnerability of these systems along with the extremely valuable data that they typically store and transmit. Most recently, in May, US CERT warned organizations of a widespread attack against dozens of global organizations that were hit using a vulnerability that SAP first offered a patch for over six years ago.

SAP provided this statement:

“SAP Product Security Response Team collaborates frequently with research companies like ERPScan and Onapsis to ensure a responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities. Security patches are available for download on the SAP Service Marketplace. We strongly advise our customers to secure their SAP landscape by applying the available security patches from the SAP Service Marketplace immediately.”

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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