The RECON Bug Highlights SAP Customers’ Need for Fine-Grained Control and Visibility (Not Just Security Patches)

By Rajesh Rengarethinam • July 21, 2020

A critical SAP vulnerability (CVE-2020-6287 or RECON) was recently discovered by Onapsis, giving attackers TOTAL control of vulnerable business applications. It allows hackers to gain unauthenticated access to SAP and then create new user accounts with admin (superuser) privileges. A malicious attacker can do limitless amounts of damage with these privileges, including stealing data, changing bank account numbers, fully sabotaging systems, and more. 

RECON Shares Similarities to a Familiar Foe – 10KBLAZE 

The RECON vulnerability puts the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of SAP ERP data and processes at risk, which is very similar to the 10KBLAZE exploit from 2019. What do these two exploits have in common? Simple, they are leveraging a lack of visibility and control to be successful. There is a reason that these exploits focus on the creation of admin accounts – because once you’re an admin (legitimate or not), you have the keys to the castle. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) encourages users and administrators of SAP products to:  

  1. Analyze systems for malicious or excessive user authorizations. 
  2. Monitor systems for indicators of compromised accounts resulting from the exploitation of vulnerabilities. 
  3. Monitor systems for suspicious user behavior, including both privileged and non-privileged users. 
  4. Apply threat intelligence on new vulnerabilities to improve the security posture against advanced targeted attacks. 
  5. Define comprehensive security baselines for systems and continuously monitor for compliance violations and remediate detected deviations. 

The key recommendations align with the need for monitoring – monitoring systems, monitoring transactions, monitoring the creation of accounts, and (most importantly) monitoring data access and usage. This is where many customers will struggle with their SAP risk management as attaining fine-grained controls and visibility are complex, even prohibitive at times, with native functionality. This is precisely where Appsian can help. 

A Second Layer of Defense: Fine-Grained Control and Visibility 

RECON and 10KBLAZE highlight that a single, static layer of security within SAP is inadequate to combat modern-day threats. Appsian enables SAP ERP customers to layer their defenses using a comprehensive suite of fine-grained, risk-aware access controls, and continuous monitoring of data access and usage. 

Here are Appsian’s recommendations to minimize your attack surface and the risks posed by RECON – and future vulnerabilities like it (in addition to recommended security patches). 

Attribute-Based Access Controls (ABAC) Are Essential in a Dynamic Environment  

RECON and 10KBLAZE take advantage of vulnerabilities in the open, internet-facing SAP components (think remote access). The Appsian Security Platform (ASP) uses attribute-based access controls (ABAC) to implement data-centric, “risk-aware” controls. ABAC prevents specific transactions like user provisioning when access originates from untrusted IP addresses (or IP addresses outside your whitelist), certain geographic locations, outside work hours, mobile devices, and many other contextual attributes. The bottom line is that Appsian can stop the creation of a user account (or changes in privileges) if access is coming from outside the corporate network. Fine-grained policies can be implemented to block high-risk activity, such as those matching the RECON attack patterns. 

Visibility into Data Access and Usage is Essential for Combatting Configuration Gaps 

Both RECON and 10KBLAZE center around the unauthorized creation of high privileged user accounts. Appsian360, the latest real-time analytics solution by Appsian, captures and visualizes data access and usage, which is essential for monitoring user provisioning activity like user creation/deletion and role/profile changes. Appsian360 can detect and alert organizations at the point of initial account creation, minimizing the damage by reducing how long a threat goes undetected.     

Appsian360 can also detect suspicious transaction activity if the compromised and illegitimate accounts are not addressed at the point of creation. Furthermore, this creates an audit trail that acts independently from existing SAP logs and can expedite breach forensics activities. 

This detailed insight can make a positive impact on a company’s SAP risk management.

Prepare Yourself for the Next Critical SAP Vulnerability – Layer Your Defenses (While and After you Patch Your Applications) 

RECON isn’t the first critical vulnerability to affect SAP, nor will it be the last. While there are security patches available to keep their ERP systems safe, these can take time (and resources) to implement, which results in significant downtime of production systems. Furthermore, the time to apply the patches depends on the complexity and the components involved. By all means, stay up to date on system updates, but bugs like RECON and 10KBLAZE serve as a reminder that patches aren’t enough to protect critical SAP data. 

Talk to the SAP Risk Management and Security Experts at Appsian today to discuss how your organization can address the risks posed by RECON and other vulnerabilities.

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Data Security Penalties Get Real….Real Expensive

By Scott Lavery • August 5, 2019

How companies approach data security controls is changing. Segregation of Access (SoAx) is now just as critical as Segregation of Duties (SoD). Who sees sensitive data is just as important as who changes it.

And just to make sure organizations take access controls seriously, regulations such as GDPR are inflicting major penalties for breaches of private data. And soon, it won’t just be about breaches, it’ll also be about fines being levied for data security audit failures.

When GDPR was enacted, there was alot of confusion around the penalties that would be associated with the exposure of sensitive data. Many companies took a wait and see approach in lieu of enacting data protection measures. Especially around legacy applications, such as ERP systems, where the keys to a company’s kingdom are typically stored.


Couple of reasons. Most companies don’t even have a handle where their sensitive data is even stored. And, in addition, most companies don’t focus on regulatory controls until the penalties are real.

GDPR penalties are real. The penalties associated with many of the state-driven data privacy regulations are real. And now we have some guinea pig companies that show just how real they are.

GDPR was enacted in May of 2018. It took a year before the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) nailed a company for a breach of sensitive data.

In 2019, British Airways was hit with a proposed fine of $230m for the exposure of sensitive information. Less than a week later, a second culprit was reported. The ICO has proposed a $124m fine to be assessed to the Marriott hotel chain related to the exposure of sensitive data in over 339 million guest records.

But that’s a European regulation that doesn’t apply to us.

We hear that alot. So, let’s talk about some of the recent US-based breaches and their associated penalties.

In 2013, Yahoo was fined $35m by the SEC and paid an additional $50m in a class action suit for a major exposure of customer data.

In 2015, health insurer Anthem was fined $16m for violating HIPAA regulations and allowing the breach of over 79 million customer records. And that was in addition to the $112m they paid to settle a national class action suit.

In 2017, a breach of Target’s customer information was settled for a $18m fine.

Uber, in 2018, was fined $148m for a major breach of driver and rider records. An unusually large fine for that time that was increased due to their efforts to cover up the breach.

The key takeaway is that, while some of those US fines are relatively low when compared to the GDPR offenders, that is changing. With the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act and other state initiatives, fines are being structured to follow the GDPR model. That is they will be calculated as a percentage of an organization’s revenue.

All of sudden that $18m that Target paid blows up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Still want to take a wait and see approach?

Contact us to see how Appsian can help you address your data security controls.

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Top 10 Data Breaches of the Past Five Years (Infographic)

By Greg Wendt • July 23, 2014

Top 10 Data Breaches of the Past Five Years
By TSC Advantage, Holistic Security Consultancy

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