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Security In Context

Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting your critical IT infrastructure.

Database Security Risks Run Amok Without Oversight

Post by Peter McCalister February 1, 2012

As you can imagine, databases are in a class of data storage, organization, and management unto themselves. As such, the inherent security vulnerabilities in which a least privilege solution can help mitigate are also relatively unique. I’ve uncovered six that should be explored:

Misconfigurations: Database schemas can be very temperamental and any misconfiguration error can cascade into a huge problem or be so subtle that it may be difficult to uncover the impact. A frequent challenge here is the ambitious developer who somehow gets access to the production system instead of just their development sandbox.

Updates: Out-of-cycle patching can cause major disruption in operation and potentially lead to lost revenue if done on the primary transaction database. Here is where the ambitious tech support technician or developer believes that blindly trusting that your database vendor’s testing capabilities keep current with their latest patch is a good thing.

Application Attacks: Sometimes the easiest way to attack your database is to attack the outward-facing applications that are connected to that database, especially if those application are web-based. This can also come in the form of database access through non-approved channels such as open source tools capable of bypassing normal admin dashboards.

Transaction Monitoring: Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that can trip you up when looking to satisfy compliance or track down data theft or damage, so monitoring every transaction can be very important. However, it can also drown your data stores in amounts of information too voluminous to even interrogate.

Data Awareness: What is perceived, or in actuality is, confidential data can be subjective in some organizations and very clearly identified in others. Being aware of what class of data is stored where will be another critical success factor.

Privileged Users: My favorite, of course, is the privileged user. As discussed previously, the DBA’s omnipotent access to your database must be managed through a least privilege solution in order to ensure your governance and compliance policies are met as well as protect against the misuse of that privilege—intentionally, accidentally, or indirectly.

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