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

7/23/2013
09:35 AM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Quick Hits
50%
50%

Choosing And Implementing An Enterprise Database Encryption Strategy

As long as your database information has value, you need encryption. Here are some tips for making enterprise database encryption work

[The following is excerpted from "Choosing and Implementing an Enterprise Database Encryption Strategy," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's Database Security Tech Center.]

A lot of attention is given to securing database systems-- and rightly so: Databases are the target for attackers who wish to siphon off intellectual property, gather financial data that can be turned into cash and, in some cases, break in just for the sport of it. The attacks against computer systems are diverse, but the end target is typically the database.

The majority of research today centers on the security of database infrastructure -- in essence, the engine that stores, manages and serves data. But all too often we forget that it's the data an attacker is after. In fact, it's simpler -- and provides more universal protection -- to focus on securing the data as it's used, moved and stored than to worry about the complexities of different database systems used in your organization.

When you say "database encryption," what comes to mind? Encrypting data at rest? Perhaps you think of encrypted database backup, or maybe it's the Internet connection to the database. Actually, database encryption is all of these things. And there are several variations to each, providing slightly different advantages in terms of security, cost and performance.

Application-layer encryption
As the name implies, application-layer encryption is implemented by the application that uses the database to store information. Application developers usually leverage a third-party encryption library to encrypt data before it's sent to the database and to decrypt it when read from the database.

There are several advantages to this method of encryption. The data and the encryption keys are not stored in the database, so neither the platform nor database administrator can access them. In addition, the application developer decides how much data will be encrypted and with what level of granularity.

With all that said, this method of encryption has fallen out of favor with all but the most security-conscious of companies because it has some serious drawbacks: It's incredibly difficult to retrofit encryption at the application layer into a legacy application; every databaseread and write operation (SQL query) must be altered to use encryption, usually at tremendous cost in development time and testing. In addition, useful database features such as indexing don't work with encrypted data; as the encrypted output is random, the ordering of encrypted data elements will be, as well.

Finally, encrypted data is typically in binary format, meaning the tables must be reconstructed to accept binary instead of traditional text, date or monetary values. In short, application-layer encryption offers the greatest degree of security at the highest cost in complexity and implementation time.

Native database object encryption
All of the major relational database vendors offer one or more types of encryption. The first we call "native database object encryption," because the encryption engine resides inside the database. It's part of the database code, and you configure it to protect specific database objects (such as tables and schemas). Keys are held inside the database, in the system tables, so they are accessible to the database in the event of restarts.

The benefit of native object encryption is that it's an entirely self-contained encryption option. It's effective for media encryption because data is already encrypted before it's copied to storage drives or tape backups.

To read more about native object encryption -- as well as other encryption strategies and issues in implementation -- download the free report.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. 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
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/21/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-25596
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. x86 PV guest kernels can experience denial of service via SYSENTER. The SYSENTER instruction leaves various state sanitization activities to software. One of Xen's sanitization paths injects a #GP fault, and incorrectly delivers it twice to the guest. T...
CVE-2020-25597
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. There is mishandling of the constraint that once-valid event channels may not turn invalid. Logic in the handling of event channel operations in Xen assumes that an event channel, once valid, will not become invalid over the life time of a guest. Howeve...
CVE-2020-25598
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen 4.14.x. There is a missing unlock in the XENMEM_acquire_resource error path. The RCU (Read, Copy, Update) mechanism is a synchronisation primitive. A buggy error path in the XENMEM_acquire_resource exits without releasing an RCU reference, which is conceptually similar...
CVE-2020-25599
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. There are evtchn_reset() race conditions. Uses of EVTCHNOP_reset (potentially by a guest on itself) or XEN_DOMCTL_soft_reset (by itself covered by XSA-77) can lead to the violation of various internal assumptions. This may lead to out of bounds memory a...
CVE-2020-25600
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. Out of bounds event channels are available to 32-bit x86 domains. The so called 2-level event channel model imposes different limits on the number of usable event channels for 32-bit x86 domains vs 64-bit or Arm (either bitness) ones. 32-bit x86 domains...