It has now become a common trend that we come across newly designed ways to steal confidential data or the database of an organization. Today, database servers are the prime targets of such stealthy attacks. If reports by Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (2015) are to be believed, then databases pose as the most compromised attacks.
But, what is the reason for databases getting targeted? Well, the reason is simple- they are the heart of an organization that stores private business data and customer records. When the organization leaves any scope to get this significant leak or doesn’t protect the data efficiently, the real problem starts from there.
This lets hackers or malicious insider acquire access to that sensitive data. Within seconds, they can get access through the database to damage/impact business operations. Not only the organization suffers financial loss, but it also depletes the reputation. Not to mention, such breaches can brew regulatory violations.
Mentioned-below are the threats that are hovering around, causing harm to the database servers of organizations.
Top Database Threats
As the technology progressed, every simple process from ordering food to booking air-tickets online, the threats towards database security have increased over the time period. In the last few years, these threats are recognized as the plague for the growth of the businesses. The top database threats include:
1) Unnecessary Privileges
When people are given the freedom to enjoy certain privileges, and they don’t know what to do with it correctly, they end up misusing it. The case is the same when workers are granted more rights to the database exceeding their job functions; there are chances that they can be abused. For instance: an employee in a bank who is employed for changing contact information of the account holder may take advantage of excess privileges given to him on database information customization.
Say, he increased the savings account balance of his colleague. Additionally, some companies fail to update access privileges for employees who change their job roles or responsibilities within the organization or leave jobs.
Database Injection attacks
Majorly database injections attacks are defined as SQL injections. SQL injections target traditional database systems, and the other NoSQL injection targets ‘big data’ platforms. The most critical point to apprehend here is that big data solutions are said to be impermeable to SQL injection attacks as they do not use SQL-based technology. But, they are susceptible to the fundamental class of attack. And, in both types, an input injections attack can give an attacker unauthorized access to the entire database.
A malware can be used for stealing sensitive data using infected injections via authentic users. It is considered as one perpetual threat.
Storage Media Exposure
Often, backup storage media stays completely defenseless from the attacks, which results in several security breaches that even includes the database backup tapes and disks stealth. In addition, if audit and monitoring cease to failure, the administrator activities i.e., worker having access to the sensitive data on low-level can usually put your data at risk. Only by taking the appropriate measures for protecting backup copies of the confidential data and by monitoring the most privileged user is the best practice for data security.
The exploitation of Vulnerable Databases
Generally, it could take months and months to patch the harmed databases, and the irony is—they are most susceptible to the damage then. And, the attackers are already aware of the techniques to exploit the databases or unpatched databases having the default parameters for the accounts and configuration. Sadly, organizations have to struggle to stay on the top to uphold the configurations of the database even if the patches are available.
The most common issues comprise high workloads, complex and time-consuming necessities for testing patches, mounting backlogs for the concerned administrators of the database, and challenge to find an upholding window to work on a business-critical system.
Unmanaged sensitive data
Many companies have a hard time maintaining a précised inventory of their databases and the vital data objects contained inside of them. The databases that are forgotten often contain vulnerable and useful information, new databases that can work without the visibility to the security team. The critically sensitive data residing on them will then be exposed to threats if the needed permissions are not put to practice.
The human factor
Ponemon’s s Institute Cost of Data Breach Study stated that— for 30% of the data breaching incidents, the originating cause is the negligence of humans working with the database. Surprisingly, this happens due to the lack of required expertise, resources, or experience that is necessary while implementing the security controls, or enforcing policies/conduct incident response processes.
Prevention and Mitigation:
No matter what you are running an instance of open-source MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server, you always have to be very certain that completely robust and high-quality measures are put to practice. This is extremely significant to prevent malicious access to your database, especially if the servers hold captive the sensitive or personal data. Mentioned-below are some practices that will keep in check the security feature of your database.
SQL Server Security Best Practices
1) Isolate Your Server:
It is one of the most common yet very effective practices to follow while you don’t want the security of the database server compromised. Keeping your server will ensure that it is kept safe from other services and applications. You can comprehend the situation by considering putting your SQL Server in a controlled network segment, and then allowing the access to only authoritative traffic. This way, the database will be communicated by the application or web server. Any malicious or unexpected connections are avoided through restrictive/limited access.
2) Keep it Lean
Keeping it lean means that you should only be downloading/installing the necessary software and services to keep the security feature robust. Staying away from the software/feature which you don’t require can surely reduce the chances of exploitation attacks on the server. Also, never forget to turn-off the SQL Server Browser while you are running a default instance of an SQL server. The turned-on server can act as a gateway for the attackers to gain access or exploit the resources you are trying hard to keep safe and protected.
3) Regularly Update
Try to ensure that all your SQL Server applications and tools are updated. This is an effective measure to keep the data safe on the database. How? Well, when an application is developed, there may or may not be loopholes. And, cybercriminals keep on studying that application trying to find out the ambiguity. Here, regular updates help in patching that ambiguity from the developer’s side so that the attackers won’t find a way out to steal the data from the database. Hence, stick to a regular patching schedule offered from the developer’s side.
4) Apply Restrictions
The user, who operates the database, also has access to execute programs, access the filesystem, and undertake other essential tasks. A dedicated user account is used to run MySQL with the limited access permissions or operating the rest of the server. But, with Windows installations, SQL servers are often operated as an administrator account offers complete access even when it is not required. Rather, SQL Server must always be operated as a local account—never as an administrator. Limited access is another way to control the damage.
5) Manage Logins
You are required to set a strong password for the account of the system administrator/root user, particularly if the mixed-mode for authorization is turned on. Also, carry out a regular audit for SQL Server security that includes auditing login. If the logins are getting failed repeatedly, then it is assumed that some unauthorized user is trying to access your server. This way, you can track down those accounts even before they make their way into the servers.
Furthermore, if you audit logins, it creates a record that can be kept by you for the later use and ensure security. You are also required to be very meticulous for deleting/disabling logins when they are no longer in use.
6) Secure Backups
It is a known fact that your backups contain a copy of your production databases, and thus you need to protect the backups as well, not just the production databases. This implies applying the exact same protocol to your backup that includes restricting access, taking all the security measures under consideration. Not to mention, reviewing and controlling people having access to that backup data.
7) Protection Against Injection
You need to ensure that your database applications are put up to avert SQL injections, and you get all the security tools to scan the event systems and logs. One prime approach for setting up your SQL Server is to safeguard it from SQL injection is by using stored procedures. SQL injections have special parameters that only accept certain types of codes. So, when the intruder tries to send malicious SQL queries, they aren’t accepted, and the intruder is not responded with any useful information.