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Vendors Prep for Database Security War

New products set to roll as enterprises look to safeguard their most sensitive data

Online criminals today know what they want, and they know where to find it: in your corporate database. Yet, despite a number of highly-publicized data breaches and thefts, many enterprises still have not fully developed a database security strategy.

Experts agree that database information -- particularly customer lists and personal user data -- is currently the most marketable and attractive target for electronic thieves. But most databases aren't ready for the onslaught of attacks they are beginning to see, the experts warn.

"In my opinion, database security is riddled with holes and it's the biggest problem we face in IT today," says David Litchfield, managing director of NGS Software, who has discovered numerous vulnerabilities in database software over the past year. (See Is Oracle Downplaying Security Vulnerabilities?)

Next week at the RSA conference in San Francisco, several vendors will be stepping up to do something about that problem. Application Security on Tuesday will unveil DbProtect, a suite of tools that includes vulnerability scanning, database activity monitoring, and data encryption.

AppSec joins Guardium, which next week will demonstrate its own database monitoring tool, which was introduced last week. (See Guardium to Protect Database.) Several other vendors, including Imperva, Microsoft, and Oracle, will also be announcing or demonstrating database security tools at RSA.

The vendors say they are being driven by two sides of the corporation: The security people, who are concerned about targeted attacks on their data from the outside; and compliance auditors, who are seeking holes that may allow unauthorized users to access databases from the inside.

"The auditors often are the ones that are the catalysts for companies to call us in," says Ted Julian, vice president of marketing at AppSec. "In the past, database administrators and other users have shared privileged access, and it was possible for them to access data without anyone knowing who did it. That's a hole that auditors want to see closed."

But many IT people still don't know much about database security, says Phil Neray, vice president of marketing at Guardium. "They don't know that there are non-intrusive ways to implement database security without reconfiguring the whole system."

In fact, many enterprises still don't know how many databases they are supporting, or how they are configured, experts say. Some enterprises give business units and departments freedom to create databases as they wish, without centrally controlling or managing them.

"We've seen companies with hundreds of databases that they don't even know about," says Julian.

New security products from database vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle can help monitor database access, but they usually aren't enough by themselves, experts say.

"Some auditors see it as the fox guarding the henhouse when the database security and monitoring tools are made by the same vendor as the database itself," Julian says. In addition, many enterprises use databases from several different vendors, making a third-party security product the only viable choice, he observes.

There are some significant differences between the available solutions. Guardium's product, for example, is an appliance, while AppSec's is a software suite. Some products do scanning, real-time monitoring, and encryption; others do only one or two of those.

The cost of a database security solution may also be daunting for some enterprises. Guardium's product starts at about $50,000 for a single appliance, and the company has some customers who are spending more than $1 million. AppSec's suite can be purchased in modules, but a full suite starts at more than $20,000, and the company also has some $1 million customers as well.

"It's a significant investment, but there really is a good ROI case here," says Neray. "Even if you put aside the cost of a breach, there is a good case you can make for automating a lot of the processes required for compliance."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Application Security Inc.
  • Guardium Inc.
  • Imperva Inc.
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)
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