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12/7/2011
11:59 AM
Adrian Lane
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ADMP: DAM For Web Apps

A look at the technology that combines application and database protection

Continuing the "DAM is morphing" thread, I am going to describe the ADMP variation -- or Application & Database Monitoring & Protection. As the name implies, ADMP couples application monitoring with database monitoring to provide more thorough analysis prior to real-time alerting, taking corrective action, or blocking transactions.

For those of you who follow my posts, you know I have talked about this before. I've described ADMP as "The Web AppSec" variation of database monitoring because it links DAM to Web application firewalls to provide activity monitoring and enforcement. And this make sense: databases don't just support Web applications -- they are Web applications.

In the ADMP model, DAM protects content in a structured application and database stack, and WAF shields application functions from misuse and injection attacks. The original synergy between these two platforms was the ability to de-alias user activity at the application layer (i.e., identify the user of the application) and share that information at the database layer to get a better idea if the user request was legitimate. As applications connect to databases with a generic account, DAM could not attribute SQL queries to specific users, limiting effectiveness. When ADMP was originally sketched out four years ago to predict where the DAM market would head, we focused on two areas of development. The first was business transaction validation, which was accomplished by anti-exploitation, transaction authentication, and adaptive authentication capabilities. The second was validating the right applications were communicating with each other; this was accomplished through session security and application access control (i.e., "NAC" at the application layer).

Remember, four years ago we were focused on virtualization, but this capability is even more pressing with cloud computing. What we have witnessed is coverage for a wider variety of applications and the "hooks" required to analyze business operations. Authentication of users and services is included, but implemented as a passive reporting feature instead of active validation and blocking. We did not witness application authentication or session validation capabilities predicted.

One surprise is the ADMP model has evolved to include File Activity Monitoring (FAM), which protects data as it moves in and out of documents or unstructured repositories. Yes, this means unstructured databases can be monitored, but the feature is especially helpful in protecting back-end applications that are leaking data or Web application servers from unwanted file substitutions.

The benefit of ADMP over the other evolutionary models of DAM is better application awareness. While the Business Activity Model I referenced in my last post is geared toward protecting data before it is read, this model is better at protecting the application infrastructure while reducing false-positives through transactional awareness. The ADMP model also provides advanced detection of Web-borne threats in a way that makes it unique among its peers. Since the majority of applications are designed to serve content over the Web, this provides the broadest application of the technology. Granted, the user will need to spend more time on set-up and policy creation, but that's the trade-off.

Next up I will talk about policy-driven monitoring hierarchy and how DAM fits within that model.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security consulting practice. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

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