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SAP security breaches are on the rise, so what's being done about it?

By Catherine Knowles
Fri 26 Feb 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

When it comes to current preparedness and potential impact of breaches, there is a significant perception gap between senior leadership and security professionals, according to a new study by the Ponemon Institute.

Sponsored by Onapsis, this is the industry’s first research survey on SAP cybersecurity, and demonstrates that more than half of companies surveyed (56%) believe it is likely their company will have a data breach due to insecure SAP applications.

This same group indicates their company’s SAP platform has been breached an average of two times in the past 24 months, yet 63% indicate C-level executives tend to underestimate the risks associated with insecure SAP applications.

The survey data indicates that senior leadership values the importance of SAP to the bottom line but ignores its cybersecurity risks. In fact, 76% of respondents say their senior leadership understands the importance and criticality of SAP installations to profitability, however, only 21% of respondents say their leaders recognise SAP cybersecurity risks.

This perception gap is furthered by the limited visibility organisations have into the security of SAP applications, and many do not have the required expertise to quickly prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks, the study finds. This is a problem that 60% of respondents say would be catastrophic or very serious, and could lead to $4.5M average cost if systems are taken offline.

“One of the big surprises in this study is this swell of silent breaches that are increasingly hitting organisations which are difficult to detect, and materially impact businesses and the overall economy,” says Dr. Larry Ponemon, Ponemon Institute chairman and founder.

“Worryingly, while survey data indicates SAP breaches are expected to increase, there is no single group or job function most accountable. It appears that SAP cybersecurity is falling through the cracks between the SAP security teams and InfoSec teams, who need to step up to bridge the gap and make it a priority,” he says.

“While the industry is starting to understand the impact facing the value of the data that could be lost from their SAP system due to a data breach or a cyber attack, the attack surface is increasing rapidly with new technologies like IoT, mobile and cloud,” says Mariano Nunez, Onapsis CEO.

“Clear delineation of responsibility and the use of third party tools to integrate teams, establish processes and operationalise the prevention and detection of SAP vulnerabilities is becoming a priority to avoid significant economic impacts,” he says.

Other key takeaways from the survey includes:

SAP platforms are likely to contain malware: 75% of respondents say it is very likely (33%) or likely (42%) SAP platforms have one or more malware infections.

Breaches can't be detected immediately: There is little confidence a breach involving the SAP platform would be detected immediately or within one week. In fact nearly 100% of participants believed they could not detect an SAP breach immediately. Even a year later, 78% of respondents believed they could not detect an SAP breach.

No one is taking responsibility for SAP security: Respondents believe it is the responsibility of SAP, not their company, to ensure the security of its applications and platform, according to 54% of respondents. Internally, the SAP security team is seldom accountable for the security of SAP systems. In fact, 25% of respondents say no one function is most accountable for SAP security in their organisations followed by IT infrastructure (21%), SAP security team (19%), and information security (18%).

No one is accountable if a data breach involving a SAP system: 30% respondents say no one is most accountable if their organisation had a SAP breach followed by the CIO (26% of respondents) and the CISO (18% of respondents).

IoT and other new technologies are having a major impact: 59% of respondents believe new technologies and trends such as cloud, mobile, big data and the Internet of Things increases the attack surface of their SAP applications.

Knowledge can improve an organisation's SAP cybersecurity posture: 73% of respondents say knowledge about the latest threats and vulnerabilities affecting SAP applications improves their organisation’s ability to manage cybersecurity risks.

Certain practices are also very important to achieving security in the SAP infrastructure:

  • 83% of respondents say it is very important to be able to detect zero-day vulnerabilities in SAP applications
  • 81% say the ability to prioritise threats against SAP applications based on when the attack is likely to succeed
  • 81% say it is very important to have continuous monitoring in order to ensure SAP applications are safe and secure
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