The Black Hat conference will kick off this week in Barcelona with training sessions and briefings from some of the most talented security researchers in the industry.
Facebook's chief security officer, Max Kelly, is scheduled for a keynote presentation on Wednesday following two days of training sessions. The last two days of the conference will focus on briefings featuring research into a variety of threats on the Internet and application vulnerabilities.
One of those presentations will focus on a way to insert a backdoor into SAP's ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications. SAP's business software is often the core of a company's operations and is used to manage invoicing, human resources, procurement and billing, among many other functions.
SAP's software uses databases from companies such as Oracle, said Mariano Nuñez Di Croce, director of research and development for Onapsis, a company that focuses on penetration testing for SAP systems and others such as Oracle's PeopleSoft and JD Edwards enterprise applications.
Many companies do not configure the Oracle database correctly, which makes the SAP system vulnerable to attack.
"What we have found is, it is possible instead of modifying the program you can connect to the database and modify the code directly in the database," Nuñez Di Croce said.
The problem with SAP and the Oracle database has been known for a few years, although Nuñez Di Croce recently figured out how to slip a "backdoor" into a program in the database that can then send data to a remote hacker. Since the Oracle database does not conduct an integrity check of the source code, the attack would be difficult to detect.
It would allow an attacker, for example, to forward all information related to a new customer account. It could also let a hacker modify shipping orders or collect the log-in details when employees log on to the SAP system, he said.
"It's amazing to see how many experienced SAP customers don't know about this vulnerability," Nuñez Di Croce said.
SAP responded that what Onapsis found is "not a specific vulnerability."
"We have been made aware of the issue by Onapsis and have reviewed it. We believe that if customers follow our guidelines for security, the risk of illegitimate access through a backdoor can be excluded," SAP said in a statement.
"SAP focuses on preventing illegitimate access to SAP systems, rather than detecting manipulation within the database," the company added. It said it takes security issues "very seriously."
Nuñez Di Croce's company plans later this month to release a tool that will check to ensure applications within the database haven't been tampered with. The tool is called the Onapsis Integrity Analyzer for SAP.
It creates a hash value, or a unique numerical identifier based on the source code for applications. If the tool scans an application later and it has a different hash value, it may have been tampered with, indicating a backdoor, Nuñez Di Croce said.
Nuñez Di Croce's presentation will be in Black Hat's application security track. The conference will have two other tracks, one focusing on the "big picture" security issues and one dedicated to hardware, according to the conference schedule.
In the big picture track, Stephan Chenette, principal security researcher for Websense Security Labs, will give a presentation on a project called Fireshark. The project aims to streamline collecting information on the tens of thousands of Web sites that may contain malicious code and are designed to attack unsuspecting visitors.
Fireshark "is capable of visiting large collections of Web sites at a time, executing, storing and analyzing the content and from it identifying hundreds of malicious ecosystems," Chenette wrote on Black Hat's Web site.