Database Security Definition
Database security refers to the tools, technologies, and processes involved in protecting databases from internal and external security threats. However, it also applies to the data itself, which may find itself in various unsanctioned locations, making it hard to secure. Database security also involves protecting the database management system, and the various apps that connect to it.
Common Threats to Database Security
In reality, any kind of vulnerability, whether a software vulnerability or human error, will pose a threat to your database. However, since a complete guide to data security is beyond the scope of this article, below are some of the most common database security threats organizations should watch out for.
Insider threats are not typically motivated by malice but are generally caused by negligence. Employees have a tendency to accidentally expose, corrupt, or delete sensitive data. To make matters worse, employees are frequently granted too much access to sensitive data, and they often use weak passwords, as well as re-use and share passwords, which attackers can exploit.
Database Software Vulnerabilities
Database management software, as with other types of software, will contain bugs that attackers will try to exploit. Database management software vendors frequently issue security patches, which need to be installed as soon as they become available in order to keep your data secure.
SQL Injection Attacks
SQL injection attacks are when an attacker is able to extract data from a database by inserting malicious SQL code into query strings that are used to query the data. They are usually caused by improper validation of web form fields, in addition to poor server-side coding practices. Organizations must carry out regular vulnerability testing on their database and applications.
Buffer Overflow Attacks
A buffer overflow attack is where a program overruns a buffer’s boundary and overwrites adjacent memory locations. Buffers are frequently used by operating systems, including database applications, to hold data, sometimes executable code. Attackers can overwrite these buffers with malicious code, which can help them elevate their privileges in order to gain full access to the computer’s resources.
Denial of Service (DoS/DDoS) Attacks
A denial of service (DoS) attack is where the attackers overwhelm a target with traffic in an attempt to make it unavailable. DoS attacks usually target servers, although they are also sometimes used to target databases. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are even harder to defend against as they use a botnet (a distributed network of compromised devices) to launch the attack.
Database Security Best Practices
Below are some of the best practices for database security:
- Secure web forms
- Physical security
- Database firewall
- Database encryption
- Manage passwords and permissions
- Isolate sensitive databases
- Database auditing
Secure web forms
All public-facing web forms must be thoroughly tested to ensure that attackers are not able to execute SQL statements that would allow them to extract protected data.
Physical database security
Use physical security measures to protect your database, which is likely stored on a server, in a server room. Ensure that you have the necessary locks, alarms, CCTV cameras, and ID badges to prevent unauthorized access. As always, you should have reliable backups and disaster recovery measures in place.
A database firewall is used to monitor database traffic in order to detect database-specific attacks. They can be used for both on-premise and cloud-based environments to identify anomalous database activity.
Encryption is a simple, yet very effective way to protect data stored in a database. After all, were an adversary to gain access to your network and take a copy of your database, they will not be able to read the contents without the decryption key(s).
Manage passwords and permissions
Organizations must have a password policy in place that enforces the use of strong passwords, and access to the database should be restricted according to the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP). You should also use multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible, set a limit on the number of times a user can enter an invalid password, and monitor all logins for suspicious activity.
Isolate sensitive databases
Database isolation strategies are an effective way to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. An isolated database could exist in a location that unauthorized users might not be aware of. Database isolation will also help to protect against zero-day attacks.
Having visibility into who is accessing which databases, what they are doing, and when, is a crucial part of any data security strategy. While it is theoretically possible to access and read the log files associated with a given database or application, most companies choose to use a dedicated change auditing solution that can aggregate event data from multiple sources, and display a summary of events via a centralized dashboard. They can also deliver real-time alerts to your inbox or mobile device anytime sensitive data is accessed or used in a suspicious manner.