Database Security Threats and Challenges That You Need To Beware of!

Today, data breaches have become a threat to every organization. The damage caused by breaches goes beyond the real loss or revelation of sensitive data and brand damage. Indeed, the organizations have to face the colossal financial loss that is connected with remediation and legal liability claims.

The vulnerable organization should always remain a step ahead in the game of database security if they want to protect their data from innumerable external and internal threats. But of course, there are methods to deal with all sorts of threats and risks.

Why is Your Data a Primary Target?

The reason lies behind so many agendas such as financial gains can motivate attackers/hackers personal or professional grudge, espionage, and surprisingly even fun.

However, financial gain is the prime objective for breaching commercial entities. Most hackers choose the weakest link that has the path of no or negligible resistance. The good news here is that the security system doesn’t need to be perfect, but sufficient enough to discourage the predator so that you can keep yourself safe and sound.

The bad news, however, is that many organizations have a hard time implementing a multi-layer security system that can detect, monitor, prevent, and mitigate the threats.

The top two threats that increase in the risks can be directly be featured. Generally, the organization network is considered protected by the robust firewalls that offer a great protecting perimeter. But, if the bad factor gets past the firewall, no protection mechanism is able to detect further movement, and the chances of preventing the data breach become very less.

Not to mention that this is very hazardous to the data. Furthermore, external threats are on the rise, and if your organization has inadequate internal processes, leave gaps in the security system. Hence, it is one of the reasons that only a multi-layered and multi-front approach secures and prevents the data from breaches in an effective manner.

 Here are Top 5 threats to the Database Security:

Excessive, Inappropriate and Unused Privileges

When you grant someone the privileges to the database that are exceeding their job functions, these privileges are most likely to be abused. For instance,- an HR employee who is required to update the information employee time-off. There are chances that he might take advantage of his privilege and can alter the other employees’ information or can have a glance at the employee salaries.

Moreover, if the roles of some employees are changed in an organization, it often happens that his/her rights to sensitive data are not revoked or updated, which can also cause trouble. The intricacy of application and its corresponding data structures mean that administrators are liable to grant unnecessary privileges by default to dodge the risk of application failure, which can be faced due to the lack of access privileges. Therefore, the users may be granted default privileges for accessing the database that may exceed the perimeter of their responsibility.

It may be possible that might acquire those privileges over the course of time. Typically, enterprises protect the employee devices in top-level management such as (CEO, CFO, etc.) from external (and even internal) attackers to defend the unlimited access to sensitive data these users need.

This hardening makes it easy to detect the compromising situation, termination of access, and possible destruction of data, data that is stored locally. This is not a viable solution in a BYOD world, especially when an average user’s device is under a compromised situation. The risk would be very hard to detect, and if the user has excessive privileges, you can anticipate a breach that can lead to a massive data loss incident.

Privilege Abuse

A research that was based on the data from multiple organizations for about a two-year period indicates that almost every organization database that is accessible by humans, these users were found misusing these privileges to the sensitive data directly, bypassing the application in the interface. Furthermore, certain users who are ‘privileged’ may abuse their legal database privileges for illegal purposes.

Groups of certain users in an organization have the right to access the entire database due to their activities and occupation. The two main categories that privileged users can be categorized into are- administrators and developers.

  • DBA (Database systems administrators) have indefinite access to all data stored in the database. For better security, DBAs shouldn’t access the database (applicative data/tables) directly.
  • Typically, the developers have complete access to the production databases. The QA teams take snapshots for testing while engineers may fix or debug the live production systems. In both cases, sensitive data is susceptible to privilege abuse.

Insufficient Web Application Security:

Many organizations majorly rely on apps to communicate with the customers. However, there exist different types of attacks on applications that can expose data. Two well-known examples of web application attacks that target databases are WEB SHELL and SQL INJECTION. When it comes to listing the top threats to the database security, these are the ones that should be accounted for any data loss or damage in the database.

According to the reports of Verizon DBIR, most web application attack breaches are caused by Web Shell, and the second way is backdoors for the stealing the credentials.

 Web shells are able to utilize the shell’s capabilities to compromise the organization’s database and ex-filtrate data without any detection. The invader makes use of the shell’s file browsing abilities to locate and then steal the credentials of the database from the application’s configuration file.

This has given birth to the possibility that the shell intrinsically possesses the privileges of the server application/daemon. Moreover, in some implementations, the database credentials, i.e., username and password are stored in a documented file location in the form of plaintext.

Weak Audit Trail

This is the point where we move into threats caused by insufficient internal processes or gaps. In an enterprise, monitoring the data access should be a part of a production database deployment. In case, you fail to monitor for both security and compliance abnormalities, and collect the appropriate audit details of activities performed on the database signifies a serious multi-level organizational risk. Furthermore, the organization with weak (or with non-existent) database audit mechanisms also uncovers the fact that they are at industry and government regularity requirements.

Why are Audit Trails So Challenging?

The first and foremost reason is that many enterprises choose native adult tools that are offered by their database vendors, or they are dependent on ad-hoc and manual solutions for assuming that these approaches are sufficient. The contextual details are not necessarily recorded in native audit to support the security, compliance audit, or detecting attack and offering forensics or the incident.

Furthermore, erratic and excessive consumption and extreme consumption of the CPU and disk resources database server are notorious, which can force many organizations to remove native auditing altogether. Eventually, most of the native audit mechanism of the database is unique to the platform of the database server.

Understand by an example, logs of Oracle are dissimilar from MS-SQL, and MS-SQL logs are dissimilar form DB2. The organizations which have heterogeneous database environments enforce a considerable obstacle to employ uniform, scalable audit processes and reports.

The users who are granted the administrative access to the database, either legally or they have acquired them maliciously, can switch-off the native database auditing to conceal any fraudulent activity. Audit abilities and responsibilities should be kept separated from both the database server platform and database administrators to make sure about the b separation of duties.

Second Challenge: Processing the Audit

If you have the correct trail for the audit, it is going to be the first step towards protecting your data. The next step is to understand the data activities and attempts for accessing so that the data processing and determination of the credible threats can be made. It is a bit difficult to identify the entity that has accessed the database and then differentiate between DBAs, users, application users, and jobs if you don’t have the tools to do the concerned task. Also, it would help if you comprehended, which accesses to the database are doubtful or suspicious. Generally, users fail to log in to the database due to the forgotten/mistyped credentials, or sometimes due to the change of password key.

However, when a user stuck with a failed access attempt to a database several times that too without success, or when he tries to access many databases in the organization without success, it is very doubtful and may hint that the user is an unauthorized entity trying to access the application.

But here’s a catch—native audit tools are incapable of discerning the authorized user from unauthorized user access, and often resulting in many excess alerts which necessarily be sifted by the security professionals. SIEM tools can trim this volume down and make it easier to visualize, but they lack the domain expertise. They are abstracted from the source data and provide limited actionable options for direct investigation.