Perimeter
2/22/2012
11:19 AM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Can You Delete A Database?

Data and databases keep growing, but there's a security tradeoff

When was the last time you deleted a database -- not accidentally, but on purpose? Have you ever willfully deleted a database? How about removed sensitive data from one?

Most database administrators I've spoken with have never retired the contents of a database. They may migrate the contents of the old database into a newly architected repository, but seldom have they just deleted a database. Or parsed out old data lying around that was clearly obsolete, or possibly truncated tables of sensitive data. DBA's are trained to keep data consistent and make sure the data can be recovered in case of emergency. It's there job, and there is legitimate fear of being fired if you can't produce data when it's requested.

But from a security perspective removing old data is a simple security precaution. Why do I recommend this approach? First off, you can't steal what's not there. If you deleted it from the database and only keep an encrypted tape backup, you're better off if your systems are breached. Second, it's an inexpensive security option that requires no special products and no additional purchases. And as an added bonus, shrinking a database means smaller storage requirements and less overhead on queries, both of which improve performance.

The real problem is this scares the heck out of database administrators. What happens if someone actually wants that data a year from now? Could you recover it? Do you even know who owns it to ask if you can delete it? What if it was subject to regulatory controls you're not aware of? No, it's easier just to keep the data.

And in this day and age where IT keeps more databases, and collects every tidbit of data they can, databases are growing. We collect more data and look for new ways to derive information from it. More data means more information, resulting in better decisions that hopefully provide some competitive sales advantage. Conceptually, anyway. Some firms are under strict regulatory controls to keep data for five- seven-, or even ten years. But studies show data used for analytics purposes goes "bad" -- as much as 30 percent -- after after just 18 months. For your reports that means "Garbage in, Garbage out."

But unlike garbage, bad data does not smell, so DBA's have no good incentive to get rid of it. Until you're breached, that is.

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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Must Reads - September 25, 2014
Dark Reading's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of identity and access management. Learn about access control in the age of HTML5, how to improve authentication, why Active Directory is dead, and more.
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2003-1598
Published: 2014-10-01
SQL injection vulnerability in log.header.php in WordPress 0.7 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the posts variable.

CVE-2011-4624
Published: 2014-10-01
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in facebook.php in the GRAND FlAGallery plugin (flash-album-gallery) before 1.57 for WordPress allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the i parameter.

CVE-2012-0811
Published: 2014-10-01
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Postfix Admin (aka postfixadmin) before 2.3.5 allow remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via (1) the pw parameter to the pacrypt function, when mysql_encrypt is configured, or (2) unspecified vectors that are used in backup files gene...

CVE-2012-5485
Published: 2014-09-30
registerConfiglet.py in Plone before 4.2.3 and 4.3 before beta 1 allows remote attackers to execute Python code via unspecified vectors, related to the admin interface.

CVE-2012-5486
Published: 2014-09-30
ZPublisher.HTTPRequest._scrubHeader in Zope 2 before 2.13.19, as used in Plone before 4.3 beta 1, allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary HTTP headers via a linefeed (LF) character.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Chris Hadnagy, who hosts the annual Social Engineering Capture the Flag Contest at DEF CON, will discuss the latest trends attackers are using.