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.

Perimeter

1/11/2011
08:57 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
50%
50%

A Textbook Case For Monitoring

Vodafone's customer database leak demonstrates dangers of not properly monitoring database activity

A common problem with protecting sensitive database is limiting what data users see. An employee might be allowed to see any record in a database, but he is not allowed to see every record at the same point in time. For example, it's perfectly acceptable for customer service or a salesperson to view a customer record in service of that relationship. It's not OK that he be able to select the entire freakin' customer database.

But if the quotes from the management team are accurate, that's exactly what happened with the Vodafone data breach. And like many breaches, the company found out only when it was informed from someone outside the company.

The Vodafone case is a textbook example of why database activity monitoring (DAM) exists. One of the principle drivers behind monitoring software is to verify usage of systems or applications -- or conversely detect misuse. While this category of problem is commonly referred to as "the insider threat," that's really only a hyped subset of the specific operational problems being addressed. It's about protecting data while still performing the tasks the application was designed to perform. And this is most problematic with databases because the SQL query language is designed to return lots of information quickly and easily. Providing every row in the database except those filtered out by the "WHERE" clause is a core database feature. Validation of business and security rules is not.

Technologies like labeling can limit the rows within a table a single user is allowed to see, but it does not help limit the quantity of data extracted. Similarly, using an application or stored procedure to limit the amount of information a user can access at any one time can help, but most applications don't have this capability built in. Worse, they are expensive to retrofit and don't have the capabilities to track users over time. Perhaps most important, queries sent directly to the database bypass these controls. The point is there are several (kludgy) ways to accomplish the goal, but none is as easy or effective as DAM.

Every single DAM product on the market has policies to detect when a user selects "too many rows," or selects entire columns of sensitive information instead of a single row. Most have the capacity to track usage over time, so they build a profile of user activity and results and compare this with proper use models, alerting when there is a significant deviation from what is considered normal. At a minimum, someone runs "select * from customers" and security gets alerted. Some products will even block the query before the data is leaked. At the very minimum, even if you don't have a specific policy to protect data from the attack, you have an activity trail for forensic audits. This problem keeps popping up because most companies don't monitor or validate database usage.

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
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
7 Tips for Infosec Pros Considering A Lateral Career Move
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2020
For Mismanaged SOCs, The Price Is Not Right
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment:   It's a PEN test of our cloud security.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7220
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
HashiCorp Vault Enterprise 0.11.0 through 1.3.1 fails, in certain circumstances, to revoke dynamic secrets for a mount in a deleted namespace. Fixed in 1.3.2.
CVE-2019-15707
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
An improper access control vulnerability in FortiMail admin webUI 6.2.0, 6.0.0 to 6.0.6, 5.4.10 and below may allow administrators to perform system backup config download they should not be authorized for.
CVE-2019-15712
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
An improper access control vulnerability in FortiMail admin webUI 6.2.0, 6.0.0 to 6.0.6, 5.4.10 and below may allow administrators to access web console they should not be authorized for.
CVE-2019-16512
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
An issue was discovered in ConnectWise Control (formerly known as ScreenConnect) 19.3.25270.7185. There is stored XSS in the Appearance modifier.
CVE-2019-16513
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
An issue was discovered in ConnectWise Control (formerly known as ScreenConnect) 19.3.25270.7185. CSRF can be used to send API requests.