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  • Ali Hasany

Top 10 SAP Audit and Security Risks

SAP is a world-class secure and robust ERP system, but with vast possibilities for customization, access levels and permissions, and increasing number of cybersecurity threats resulting to rise of vulnerabilities if organization fails to implement a thorough process for managing them.


As a result, companies must be aware of potential threats in order to ensure the system's security and process efficiency.


SAP customers are concerned with safeguarding the system in conformity with rules such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) and other regulatory compliance requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and ISO 27001.


However, new external threats are emerging. In recent years, criminals have attempted to target ERP systems in order to gain access to confidential information ranging from trade secrets to employee information.


The following list highlights ten common risks that might lead to vulnerabilities in a SAP system and compromise sensitive data.


Top 10 SAP Audit Risk
Top 10 SAP Audit Risk

Top 10 SAP Audit and Security Risks


1. Infrastructure security vulnerabilities

Infrastructure issues were often disregarded in the past because they were not a major concern.


However, as the scope and severity of cybercrime grow, infrastructure vulnerabilities must be taken seriously.


Many issues that most people are unaware of or dismiss can have a significant impact, as even the best application-level security in the world can be degraded by vulnerabilities deeper in the technology stack.


For example, a SAP layer configures how different hosts inside the SAP architecture communicate with one another; a typical configuration will include production, quality assurance, and test servers. Because the SAP system trusts certain servers, misconfiguration or insufficient access constraints around system administrator instructions may result in vulnerabilities.


Remote function calls (RFCs) allow middle-layer communication within SAP; if those RFCs are exploited, a person can obtain control of an entire system.


Other areas to look for are:


  • Database security: Specifically, system administrator accounts such as "sa" and "sysadmin" as well as settings for trusted authentication and default application accounts, are of particular significance.

  • Interfaces: Specifically, transactional data

  • System software: Pay particular attention to common issues like patches, antivirus, malware, trust, port vulnerabilities, and so on.

  • Network: Thoroughly examine port management processes such as clear text.


2. Insecure configuration

When installing a SAP system, many of the default security settings are not adequately altered, making the system insecure and extremely open to attacks from the inside as well as the outside.


Organizations must remember that configuration is distinct from patch management and must ensure that SAP systems are implemented with correct security settings and SAP NetWeaver stack configuration from the start, which will help avoid costly production server downtime later.


Parameters linked to configuration utilized by RFC connections, gateways, and message servers are a few examples of locations where unsecured setup might jeopardize the security of SAP systems.


3. Lack of patch management

Patch management is essential for maintaining the stability and security of your SAP systems by addressing issues with functionality or addressing security flaws found in earlier editions.


Patch management has grown more difficult as more businesses move their SAP settings to the cloud. As a result, businesses are finding it difficult to find, evaluate, and apply updates on time.


Keeping SAP systems up to date has number of issues and challenges which include:


  • System administrators who are unaware of existing vulnerabilities and relevant patches required to keep the system stable and safe.

  • The lack of a patch management strategy necessary to evaluate patches based on criticality and applicability.

  • Testing patches before they are deployed to reduce unexpected behavior from the system and downtime.


4. Unencrypted Interface Communications

Communication protocols between client/server networks used by SAP application servers are not encrypted.


Apart from encryption, the absence of mutual authentication protocols may result in network traffic being intercepted by an adversary via a "man in the middle" attack.


Thus, in order to encrypt RFC connections between SAP servers as well as communication between SAP GUI and SAP application servers, organizations need to think about implementing security mechanisms like Secure Network connections (SNC).


Communication channels between systems with lower security classifications (like test/development systems) and systems with higher security classifications (like production systems) are also protected by robust authentication procedures, such as Single Sign-On (SSO).


5. Access Control and Segregation of Duties

Ineffective implementation of SAP application security role design leads to higher audit findings/issues, fraud possibility through Segregation of Duties (SoD), ineffective access provisioning for end users, and illegal access.


Setting up roles and access restrictions in SAP apps guards against insider threats and the potential for fraud connected to the SoD, as well as preventing employees from accessing more data than is necessary for their job responsibilities.


In order to keep the SAP application security role design free of SoDs over time and less susceptible to internal breaches, it is important to maintain the role design and its governance, which includes proper oversight of the change management process.


Businesses should use an organization-level segregation of duties (SoD) matrix to evaluate sensitive tasks and incompatible jobs throughout the entire business.


As a preventative measure, performing a SoD check at the time of user provisioning is also recommended. But because SAP is such a complicated system, a manual SoD check is challenging, ineffective, and not always correct.


Therefore, an automated tool is required to do the evaluation; SAP offers a GRC module that efficiently completes the process; more tools of a similar nature are available.


I strongly advise a corporation to have its auditors use their automated technology to evaluate hidden SoD risks if they decide not to use one internally.


6. Monitoring Security Events and Configuration

The danger of vulnerabilities within the SAP system is mitigated partly by the use of logging to assess security events, data and database management, privileged user account monitoring, and application configuration through using Audit Logs and SIEM software.


This allows the company to assess roles and privileges throughout the SAP system and resolve issues related to compromised access restrictions.


Establishing a security plan and baseline security configuration, prioritizing risk management, and creating procedures to remedy known vulnerabilities (by patching or changing configurations) and reduce threats to the SAP environment are all necessary for organizations.


7. System ID security

System and communication IDs can be allocated to powerful profiles like SAP_ALL, have enhanced access to the system, and are not affected by password configuration settings. As a result, there is a higher chance that a hacker will get access to credentials and use the ID to compromise the system.


A company must conduct an additional audit in addition to a standard one to make sure that all systems and communication accounts and interfaces are adequately protected and do not expose the system to additional risks. Standard SOX information technology general controls audits do not normally evaluate system and communication accounts.


8. Custom Code Security

Security backdoors in custom objects, including forms and interfaces, that are often used to drive important business functions, can lead to serious vulnerabilities.


Businesses need to encircle these items with strict security and change management procedures throughout installation.


During development, test them adequately, and document their actions and the specific security controls that are being put in place using SAP-specific documentation guidelines.


Many businesses focus more on getting SAP up and running than security when customizing the system; instead, they should establish a specialized security plan that takes changes into consideration and include program authorization checks.


A final preventative measure is to keep an up to date RICEFW inventory, documenting all custom objects, forms, reports, and interfaces.


Security audits also make users aware of bespoke transactions and functionality by recording what they do.


Furthermore, vulnerability evaluations can explain the dangers associated with any changes.


9. Broad administrative user privileges

Many companies grant administrators and/or the IT support staff higher access during implementation or temporary maintenance/troubleshooting of production systems.


Attackers may take advantage of flaws in privileged access security by launching ransomware attacks or stealing data.


The loss of privileged access has a significant commercial impact, necessitating additional safeguards to protect its security.


Organizations should use multi-factor authentication (MFA) techniques to reduce the chances of these privileged accounts being hacked by internal threats or external hackers.


Monitoring, logging, and reviewing user activity is another technique to verify that privileged access is utilized responsibly, and that any abnormal activity is discovered as a potential indicator of cybercrime.


10. User admin controls

Ineffective provisioning or modifications of accounts/de-provisioning user access controls are a big concern with many SAP systems.


As previously stated, in many circumstances, approvers may be unaware of the type of access they are granting—and access is not always role-based, which may result in excessive access.


Furthermore, some of the technology deployed to automate provisioning and de-provisioning may complicate problems and result in undetected security gaps.


Depending on the environment, an identity and access management solution or batch process linked to Active Directory may aid in the removal and addition of access.


Organizations that rely on automatic Active Directory or HR-based removal run the risk of missing users due to inadequate communication between the various systems and account reuse.


Similarly, any technological changes made by a careless administrator can render controls ineffective. Many organizations are automating access control processes, which is a good thing.


Companies must, however, be aware of the data sources they use and how modifications to access are made.


Multiple vulnerabilities might occur as a result of how the organization configures the SAP system, manages access, modifies infrastructure, or performs identity management, as well as how the platform communicates.


Just because processes are automated does not mean they are error-free.


When managing system access, the status of users and the system of record are also important considerations.


In certain circumstances, managers fail to inform rehired contractors, temporary employees, or leaves of absence, and some contractors are not even in the HR system.


Keep an eye out for contractors whose contracts are about to expire, as well as potential users who have several IDs and degrees of access.


Other potential control issues include transfers keeping access, users cloned and given excessive access, poorly named users, and access that is not role-based.


When access is not permitted or is given out informally, or when super-users leave, problems can occur.


Conclusion

Operating an ERP system entails some inherent risks, and SAP is no exception. You must pay great attention in order to comprehend various typical risks and avoid creating extra weaknesses. Evaluating and properly managing these ten audit and security risks can go a long way toward guaranteeing the security and efficiency of your SAP platform and vital data.


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