Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Application Security //

Database Security

12/23/2013
12:04 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Database Risks Increase As Patch Frequency Decreases

Department of Energy breach report offers stark lesson in patch management's relationship with database risk postures

The recent report released by the Inspector General of the Department of Energy about a massive breach at the agency earlier this year detailed a number of important breakdowns in security that led to the breach. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons to be learned from the report, though, was how important the patching process is to the risk posture of sensitive databases.

According to Gregory H. Friedman, the author of the report, among the biggest failures that led to the breach was the fact that the management information system (MIS) breached by attackers was running on woefully out-of-date software.

"Critical security vulnerabilities in certain software supporting the MIS application had not been patched or otherwise hardened for a number of years," Friedman reported.

In the same vein, Friedman reported that there was no sense of urgency in replacing end-of-life applications that stood up critical MIS databases.

"Specifically, core support for the version of the compromised application upon which MIS was built ended in July 2012, and the department failed to purchase the extended support that would have provided limited coverage through July 2014," Friedman said.

[Are you using your human sensors? See Using The Human Perimeter To Detect Outside Attacks.]

Patch management has long been a thorn in the side of database administrators, who would just as soon not deal with the performance quirks that come with security updates.

"Database patches tend to introduce not only security fixes, but behavioral changes as well, which cannot be separated out of the cumulative patch," says Barry Shteiman, director of security strategy for Imperva. "For this reason, many DBAs or system admins decide to not patch, or only patch on a yearly maintenance basis, and even then, I have a strong feeling that only patches that are considered 'critical' are installed."

But patches within the database aren't the only ones that greatly affect the security of these sensitive data stores. Applications can be equally as important.

"If an application uses a database back-end -- as they always do -- and that application is vulnerable to attacks, SQL injection, for example, then the database that it has rights to read and write from becomes vulnerable to the same attack," Shteiman says. "It is a chain reaction."

Unfortunately, the basic blocking and tackling of patch and vulnerability management continues to lag at many organizations, particularly those within the public sector. A study conducted earlier this year by CentraStage that examined anonymized hardware and software data of thousands of online servers -- including those belonging to 6,000 different public sector agencies -- found that 40 percent of the machines lacked up-to-date security practices.

According to Dave Rosenberg, CTO at DB Networks, organizations should recognize that the patch process will be imperfect no matter how conscientiously it is pursued.

"Patches are available only after significant problems occur and are detected in the field; after they are understood and addressed by beleaguered developers; knowledge of their availability and distribution to operations is unreliable and time-consuming; and they must be sequenced into production along with many other frequently conflicting priorities," Rosenberg says, explaining that it is important to complement patch management with continuous monitoring and behavioral analysis to look for exploited vulnerabilities.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I 'Hacked' My Accounts Using My Mobile Number: Here's What I Learned
Nicole Sette, Director in the Cyber Risk practice of Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps,  11/19/2019
DevSecOps: The Answer to the Cloud Security Skills Gap
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  11/15/2019
Attackers' Costs Increasing as Businesses Focus on Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-13157
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
nsGreen.dll in Naver Vaccine 2.1.4 allows remote attackers to overwrite arbitary files via directory traversal sequences in a filename within nsz archive.
CVE-2012-2079
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-22
A cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in the Activity module 6.x-1.x for Drupal.
CVE-2019-11325
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
An issue was discovered in Symfony before 4.2.12 and 4.3.x before 4.3.8. The VarExport component incorrectly escapes strings, allowing some specially crafted ones to escalate to execution of arbitrary PHP code. This is related to symfony/var-exporter.
CVE-2019-18887
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
An issue was discovered in Symfony 2.8.0 through 2.8.50, 3.4.0 through 3.4.34, 4.2.0 through 4.2.11, and 4.3.0 through 4.3.7. The UriSigner was subject to timing attacks. This is related to symfony/http-kernel.
CVE-2019-18888
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
An issue was discovered in Symfony 2.8.0 through 2.8.50, 3.4.0 through 3.4.34, 4.2.0 through 4.2.11, and 4.3.0 through 4.3.7. If an application passes unvalidated user input as the file for which MIME type validation should occur, then arbitrary arguments are passed to the underlying file command. T...