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SAP applications are highly sophisticated and tailored to meet the unique needs of each customer’s business processes and data requirements. As a result, managing the security of SAP applications can be equally complex, and security processes must be customized to address specific vulnerabilities and weaknesses in each customer’s system. SAP systems are highly susceptible to security threats that result from overlooked user access vulnerabilities, system misconfigurations, and unsecured ABAP code. Detecting such threats can be a time-consuming process that requires manually scanning countless lines of ABAP code for vulnerabilities and continuously parsing user change logs for access anomalies. Due to this, overworked security teams can easily overlook threats that stem from these vulnerabilities.

One such threat that often goes undetected is the authorization buffer modification exploit.

Understanding Authorization Buffer Exploits

SAP systems use buffer tables to speed up database access during user logins, reducing latency. Essentially, these buffer tables store recently accessed user login data, eliminating the need for redundant and time-consuming database pulls, which helps improve the efficiency of the SAP operating system.

However, buffer tables can be manipulated by altering the SAP ABAP code, creating a significant security risk. Without continuous monitoring in place to scan ABAP code for vulnerabilities and detect user access anomalies, hackers can exploit code vulnerabilities to alter user data stored in buffer tables and grant permissions to an unauthorized and malicious user.

The Anatomy of an Authorization Buffer Exploit

Let’s look at how an authorization buffer exploit works. Here is an example showing how a threat actor exploits SAP ABAP code to maliciously alter buffer tables and grant access to an unauthorized user.

Implications of a Successful Authorization Buffer Exploit

The consequences of authorization buffer manipulations can be numerous and severe. By exploiting vulnerable ABAP code and executing a custom, malicious ABAP program, hackers can overwrite the authorization buffer and obfuscate any user authorization changes from being tracked in the SAP system’s user maintenance database. This allows hackers to grant unauthorized users SAP_ALL permissions to view and alter critical master data without being detected by system administrators.

Once an attacker bypasses the authorization buffer and enters your SAP systems, they can perform numerous nefarious activities with consequences that include:

  1. Unauthorized Access: Hackers can exfiltrate customer and vendor data, financial statements, intellectual property, and PII, leading to data breaches and potential financial loss.
  2. Malicious Privilege Escalation: Hackers can escalate user privileges and permissions for unauthorized users, enabling malicious administrative access to modify critical system configurations and settings.
  3. Data Manipulation and Destruction: By assigning the unauthorized user SAP_ALL permissions, the attacker can modify or delete critical master data, leading to costly operational disruptions, business-critical system downtime, and reputational damage.
  4. Regulatory Non-Compliance: Data breaches stemming from authorization buffer exploits will lead to regulatory compliance violations with industry and government regulations, leading to fines and potential legal consequences.

Comprehensive Protection for Your Business-Critical SAP Systems with Pathlock

Pathlock’s Cybersecurity Application Controls (CAC) provides a complete and automated solution for SAP cybersecurity. It includes protective features against common vulnerabilities, including authorization buffer exploits. CAC empowers Security and Basis teams to take proactive measures to secure critical business SAP systems. It offers automated modules for Vulnerability and Code Scanning, Threat Detection and Response, Dynamic Data Masking, DLP and Session Logging, and Transport Control. The product includes specific features and capabilities that effectively protect against authorization buffer exploits:

  • Real-Time Threat Detection: Pathlock continuously monitors your system configurations, authorizations, security, policy, and user change logs for threats in real-time. This enables a proactive, continuous monitoring approach to threat detection and response.
  • Rule-Based Threat Filtering: A customizable engine enables prioritized response with rule-based filtering and alerts, enabling you to focus on remediating your most business-critical threats first.
  • Enhanced SAP ABAP Test Cockpit (ATC) Capabilities: Pathlock delivers over 130 security critical test cases that extend the scope of SAP’s standard ATC solution to improve security analysis and code error and vulnerability detection. These test cases can also be customized per your organization’s security requirements.
  • Automated Code Reviews: Eliminates manual ABAP code testing and scanning for security vulnerabilities. Enables identification of vulnerable code errors in real-time, ensuring hackers do not have a chance to exploit vulnerabilities.

Pathlock CAC ensures that your SAP systems are continuously and comprehensively protected against emerging threats like authorization buffer exploits. Reach out today to set up a demo and discover how leveraging automation enables a robust and repeatable SAP cybersecurity strategy.

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