At startup, SAP first connects as user <sid>adm to the database. It retrieves the password entry from the SAPUSER table and then re-connects using the SAPR3 user with the correct password. The password of user SAPR3 should therefore always be changed with SAPDBA or BRTOOLS instead of using the standard Oracle tools.
This setup is explained in detail in the Database Security for Oracle white paper which is available for download at the SAP Developer Network (http://sdn.sap.com).
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