Database Servers: Candy For HackersDatabase Servers: Candy For Hackers
Sensitive information and poor security administration make tempting targets.
June 18, 2009
Good hackers today are businesspeople, assessing each target for the simplest and most profitable attack scenarios. These days, there are probably no plumper targets than enterprise databases.
Databases house companies' easiest-to-sell confidential data: customer lists, payroll records, and many other structured inventories of sensitive information. Database administrators tend not to be steeped in security practices, and the databases themselves are frequently tied to Web applications that have turned out to be easy to hack.
In its annual breach study, Verizon Business' computer forensics team reported that databases made up 30% of data compromises in 2008. Worse, database breaches accounted for 75% of all records reported breached. Because sensitive information is often found in a single database, a single breach can lead to major damage.
"When you get down to it, a large percentage of the security threats potentially go after the database," says Rich Mogull, analyst and founder of Securosis, an enterprise security consulting firm. Most information security practitioners grow up on the networking side of IT and know little about database technology, adds Mogull. And a recent Forrester Research study found that database administrators spend less than 5% of their time on database security.
"I'd say that of the calls I take on this subject, at least two-thirds of the time, the database folks aren't involved," says Jeffrey Wheatman, Gartner's research director of information security and privacy. "I think that's a problem, because when you're monitoring or securing something you don't really understand, you need to bring in a subject-matter expert to help you."
Get the full-length
Many database security vulnerabilities are caused by simple lapses in security. In a 2008 poll, the Independent Oracle Users Group found that 26% of organizations take more than six months to install security patches on Oracle databases; 11% have never patched them. "Production databases don't get patched nearly often enough, because they're busy database servers and people will say, 'If it isn't broken, don't fix it,'" says Adam Muntner, a partner at QuietMove, a vulnerability assessment firm.
Companies often make mistakes that leave databases vulnerable, such as leaving test databases on production servers or linking sensitive data to easily hacked Web-facing applications. "I think that the biggest threat to databases is Web applications and the business logic vulnerabilities within them," Muntner says.
Close ties with Web applications can make databases vulnerable to SQL injection attacks, whereby attackers input strings of SQL code into weak Web applications fields. They can then raid the database linked to a specific Web application, and also use the link between the Web application and the database to launch more expansive attacks on entire database servers. According to IBM's ISS X-Force security research unit, SQL injection flaws last year were the Internet's most commonly exploited Web application vulnerability, growing by 134% over 2007.
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like
Hacking Your Digital Identity: How Cybercriminals Can and Will Get Around Your Authentication MethodsOct 26, 2023
Modern Supply Chain Security: Integrated, Interconnected, and Context-DrivenNov 06, 2023
How to Combat the Latest Cloud Security ThreatsNov 06, 2023
Reducing Cyber Risk in Enterprise Email Systems: It's Not Just Spam and PhishingNov 01, 2023
SecOps & DevSecOps in the CloudNov 06, 2023
Passwords Are Passe: Next Gen Authentication Addresses Today's Threats
What Ransomware Groups Look for in Enterprise Victims
Concerns Mount Over Ransomware, Zero-Day Bugs, and AI-Enabled Malware
Everything You Need to Know About DNS Attacks
Securing the Remote Worker: How to Mitigate Off-Site Cyberattacks