Database security refers to various controls, tools, and measures for securing data. They help establish and preserve the dataset’s availability, integrity, and confidentiality. Confidentiality is the element that is often compromised during most data breaches.
This article focuses on describing various elements related to dataset security. The following are the elements that database security should focus on:
- The data in the database
- Any associated applications
- Database management system (DBMS)
- The network and/computing infrastructure used to access the database
- The virtual database server and/or physical database server and the underlying hardware
Database security is a challenging and complex activity. It includes all the information on information technology practices and technologies, and the risks they face. Database usability also has a role in database security practices.
If the database is more accessible, it will be more vulnerable to threats. In that case, it will need higher levels of protection.
Why is Database Security So Important?
The definition of a data breach is the failure to maintain the confidentiality of data in databases. Many factors determine how much harm can happen to the enterprise due to a data breach. They are:
Compromised intellectual property
IPs, confidential information, and proprietary practices can be critical in maintaining a competitive advantage in the market. They are intellectual properties. Once the business loses this information, it is difficult to maintain or recover the competitive advantage.
Damage to brand reputation
Customers or partners may not trust businesses when they lose trust in protecting data. So, they will be unwilling to buy products or services.
Some breaches will take time to resolve. Thus, businesses face market downtime till the breach is fixed. This leads to business losses.
Fines or penalties for non-compliance
Businesses can fail to comply with global regulations such as:
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SAO)
- PCI DSS
- Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Thus, businesses may have to pay fines. They can even exceed several million dollars per violation in some cases. This financial impact can be devastating for businesses.
Costs of repairing breaches and notifying customers
Organizations should bear the cost of communicating a breach to customers. Also breached organization must pay for the following:
- Forensic and investigative activities
- Crisis management
- Repair of the affected systems, and more
Common Threats and Challenges
Many of the vulnerabilities and software misconfigurations can put the database at risk of breaches. Also, carelessness and misuse can result in a breach. Below are the main types of causes for database security attacks.
1. Insider threats
An insider security threat can come from any of the following sources. These threats happen with those who have privileged access to the database. They can be:
- A negligent insider
- A malicious insider
- An infiltrator
The most common reason of database security breaches are insider threats. It can be due to providing privileged access to too many employees.
2. Human error
The causes for almost half of the reported data breaches are weak passwords, accidents, and password sharing. Other uninformed or unwise behaviors also add to it.
3. Exploitation of database software vulnerabilities
Hackers find and target vulnerabilities in all kinds of software to make their living. This software includes data management software.
Database management platforms and database software vendors do regular security patches to overcome these vulnerabilities. There will be increased chances of breaches if companies fail to apply these patches in time.
4. SQL/NoSQL injection attacks
SQL/NoSQL injection attacks can involve the insertion of arbitrary non-SQL or SQL attack strings into database queries served by HTTP headers or web applications. businesses that don’t follow secure web application coding practices may become prey to it.
Also, businesses that do not perform regular vulnerability testing may suffer from these attacks.
Malware is software designed to exploit vulnerabilities. It causes damage to the database. Malware may enter the network through endpoint devices that connect databases.
6. Attacks on backups
Organizations sometimes need help to secure their backup data. They may also need to apply the same stringent controls of databases to data backups. These cases may lead to the vulnerability of backups to attacks.
The following can worsen these threats:
Growing data volumes: Storage, data capture, and processing grow in all organizations as business improves. All data security practices and tools should be scalable to meet future requirements with data security.
Infrastructure sprawl: Unexpectedly and increasingly, network environments can become complex. The reasons for it are:
- Businesses move workloads to multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud architectures
- Making the choice
- Management of security solutions ever more challenging
Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements: Regulatory compliance landscape are complex. It makes adhering to all mandates a difficult task.
7. Denial of service (DoS/DDoS) attacks
The attacker deluges the target server in a denial of service (DoS) attack. With the database, it is a database server.
When a database server gets so many requests, it will be challenging to serve the actual legitimate users. Then the server crashes or becomes unstable.
The deluge comes from multiple servers in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). This makes it more difficult to stop the attack.
Database Security Best Practices
Databases are always network-accessible. So, any security risk to any element within or portion of the network structure is also a risk to the database. Also, any attack affecting a user’s device or workplace can threaten the database. So, database safety should extend far beyond the limits of the database alone.
Consider each of the following areas when businesses evaluate database security in the environment to decide on the team’s top priorities:
Database servers must be located within a climate-controlled, secure environment. It doesn’t matter database server is in a cloud data center or on-premise.
Administrative and network access controls
Only a minimum number of employees should have access to the database. Also, access should be limited to minimum levels necessary to do their jobs. In the same way, employees should also have limited access to the networks.
End user account/device security
Organizations should be aware of who is accessing the data always. They also make sure how and when they use data. Data monitoring solutions can assist businesses in finding out unusual activities with data.
All user devices should be physically secure because it connects to the network housing the database. Those devices should also be subject to security controls always.
While at rest and in transit, all data should have best-in-class encryption. The data can include data in the database and credential data. Handle all encryption keys following best-practice guidelines.
Database software security
Use the latest version of the database management software always. As soon as they are issued, apply all patches.
Application/web server security
Any web server or application interacting with the database can be vulnerable to attack. They should be subject to best practice management and constant security testing.
All images, backups, or copies of the database should have equally stringent security controls as the database.
Companies should record all the operating system and database server logins. Also, businesses must log all operations-related sensitive data as well. Regular database security standard audits should be in place.
Database security is the process of implementing the necessary elements to protect all sensitive data. It includes various tools, software and policies, and strategies. All organizations should have stringent policies to protect all data, especially sensitive data.
Along with implementing layered security controls, companies should implement correct controls and policies to provide access to the database. They can include:
- Administrative controls to govern change, installation, and configuration management.
- Preventative controls govern encryption, tokenization, access, and masking.
- Detective controls to screen database activity checking and data loss deterrence tools.
These policies will be able to identify and alert suspicious or anomalous activities.
Need to align database security policies with broader business objectives. They can include safeguarding critical intellectual property. It can also entail adherence to cybersecurity and cloud security policies.
Assign responsibilities for the maintenance and auditing of security controls within the organization. It should also harmonize them with the cloud provider’s shared responsibility agreements.
Establish robust security controls to reinforce formal security policies. Companies can also provide security awareness training and educational programs. Moreover, organizations can put in place penetration testing and vulnerability assessment strategies.