The role of the database is to store business data, including the sensitive data of customers or clients. Essentially, a database is the vault of a business. This is why database security must not be overlooked. Insecure databases were at the core of several prominent breaches in 2019, resulting in stolen sensitive customer information for millions of users, and huge fines.
When malicious actors are attempting to gain unauthorized access to business systems, they may first try to infiltrate a business’ network or their web applications, but it is the database that they are trying to get to. With so much of our world now online due to the pandemic, malicious actors have ramped up their efforts, and data breaches are on the rise.
A cyber security incident where customer data has been compromised severely affects the reputation of a business, which can lead to a decrease in sales, especially if the business suffered system downtime. While it might seem an expensive or daunting task, keeping a healthy and secure database at all times protects business reputation and ensures business continuity. Government bodies may also impose fines and compensation to customers for data breaches. Therefore, investing in database security is money well spent now so you don’t have to pay it tenfold later.
Database security vulnerabilities
While the term “database security” may imply security measures in relation to a database, the layers of IT that surround a database, such as the networking and the applications that access the database, must also be considered.
A holistic approach should be adopted to protect a database when it comes to malicious actors trying to gain access. For example, malicious software can enter via a phishing attack which targets a business’ email system. Or, if a web application is not properly secure, malicious actors can attempt to inject malicious SQL statements into the usual communications that take place between a web application and a database.
A number of common issues make databases vulnerable to security breaches. For example, in the case of system upgrades – which may or may not include applications that access the database – the deployment may not test the security of the database thoroughly enough.
Internal staff also pose a security vulnerability. This can be anything from weak passwords easily guessed by malicious actors, current or past employees with a grudge, or access controls that are not tight enough. Database administrators should only grant employees access to the areas of the database that they need to get their job done to stop unauthorized users. This is not only because that employee might use excessive privileges to their advantage, but if a malicious actor were to gain access to a user account, they would then have access to all the privileges that the employee has access to.
Mechanisms to protect your database
Many things can be done to improve security, including the hiring of specialized database staff with skills in database management software. They know how to configure databases for maximum security and can offer security solutions. This can be the first step a business can take to secure their database.
Database administrators will keep your database up-to-date with the latest releases and security patches which should be installed as they become available otherwise your database may be vulnerable to new malicious threats circulating the internet. They all employ database security best practices to ensure that your database is compliant with various standards enforced by government agencies.
Experienced database staff can also monitor database security logs and look out for any suspicious activity. This approach to security is proactive rather than reactive, catching potential problems before they become bigger problems, because database staff know what to look for.
Keeping your database on a separate machine is also important. This way, if a security breach occurs on another server, it becomes harder for malicious actors to gain access to the database server. Also, web applications are public facing. Keeping the database on a separate machine that does not have public access, with an appropriate firewall, adds another layer of protection.
As a preventive measure, it is important that the data within the database, as well as real time communication to and from the database, is encrypted. This means that the data is stored in an unidentifiable format which can only be unlocked with encryption keys, so the data doesn’t make sense if it is accessed in an unauthorized manner.
Secure all access points to the database with strong passwords, including PCs with access. Automating access and identity management with strong rules enforces strong passwords and the changing of passwords after a set period of time. PINs and biometrics can also be added to further enhance access management security.
Database administrators can also implement proper protocols and procedures around the use of the database. This includes drawing up a disaster recovery strategy and also planning for natural disasters like something happening to the actual physical machine that the database sits on (the physical database).
Apart from the physical security, the disaster recovery strategy should also include what would happen if there was a malicious attack and data was compromised. The plan should be tested by creating a simulated attack, including penetration testing to make sure the plan is air tight. Keeping regular backups of the database should be part of the database security plan so if something does happen to go wrong, the database can be restored.
In this new pandemic world where so much of our lives are online, data security and data management has become more important than ever, especially with malicious acts on the rise. When proper database security is in place, businesses can have peace of mind that they are doing everything they can to protect their customer data and the vault of their business. Talk to the database experts at Everconnect to find out more about how they can help to secure your database.