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Warnings Issued Following Increase in ERP System Attacks

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has warned businesses about the increasing risk of cyberattacks on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems such as the cloud-based ERPs developed by SAP and Oracle.

These web-based applications are used to manage a variety of business operations, including finances, payroll, billing, logistics, and human resources functions. Consequently, these systems contain a treasure trove of sensitive data – The exact types of data sought by cybercriminals for fraud and cyber espionage.

Further, many businesses rely on their ERP systems to function. A cyberattack that takes those systems out of action can have catastrophic consequences, making the systems an attractive target for sabotage by hacktivists and nation state backed hacking groups.

The US-CERT warning follows a joint report on the increasing risk of ERP system attacks by cybersecurity firms Digital Shadows and Onapsis. The report focused on two of most widely used ERP systems: SAP HANA and Oracle E-Business.

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The authors explained that the number of publicly available exploits for SAP and Oracle E-Business have increased by 100% over the past three years and detailed information on how to attack these systems is being exchanged on darknet forums.

“ERP applications are being actively targeted by a variety of cyber-attackers across different geographies and industries,” wrote the authors. Some hackers have repurposed banking malware (Dridex) to obtain ERP system logins as demand for stolen credentials has increased significantly.

Access to ERP servers is often sought in order to mine cryptocurrencies. The researchers note that one cybercriminal group used a publicly available exploit for WebLogic to gain access to servers to install Monero mining software. Through that single attack the group managed to generate $226,000 in Monero coins. The researchers note that there is plenty of chat about using SAP servers to mine cryptocurrency on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels.

When ERP systems are connected to the Internet they are much more vulnerable to attack. The researchers note that internet-connected ERP systems are not difficult to find. More than 17,000 internet-connected ERPs were identified by the researchers that could potentially be accessed using dictionary or brute force tactics to guess logins. Many exploits are available for vulnerabilities that allow remote code execution, with more than 50 SAP exploits and 30 Oracle exploits being actively traded on darknet forums.

ERP system developers regularly release patches to address flaws in the software. As with any software solution, patches should be applied promptly. However, all too often patching is delayed due to the complexity of system architectures and customized functionality, which can make patching problematic. Those delays or the failure to apply patches plays into cybercriminals’ hands.

The researchers explain that prompt patching is critical. Additionally, strong, unique passwords should be used, and users should only have the privileges they need for their job role. ERP applications should be checked for uninstalled patches and insecure configurations, and unused APIs and unnecessary internet-facing logins should be disabled. Companies need to do as much as they can to reduce the attack surface.

The report is essential reading for IT security teams at all businesses that use ERP systems. The ERP Applications Under Fire report can be downloaded on this link.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.