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

10/4/2010
05:05 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
50%
50%

Data Security: You're Doing It Wrong!

Pete Finnegan's recent webinar, "The Right Way to Secure Oracle," was pretty controversial. His message? Database security is not what's important -- data security is.

Pete Finnegan's recent webinar, "The Right Way to Secure Oracle," was pretty controversial. His message? Database security is not what's important -- data security is.

Most companies use the checklist/tip based approach to secure their databases. However, this is a flawed approach. The checklists available for hardening are based around parameters and the core database software" not the data. The goal must be to secure the *data*, not the software; of course we must use the software settings to secure the data, but the focus of any data security project must be the data.

While I agree with what Pete is trying to do, I don't believe the assertion is correct. If the container where you store your data (i.e., a relational database) is insecure, then data security can be bypassed altogether. SQL injection attacks should prove that data security is dependent on the container as well. But the essence of what Finnegan is advocating is dead-on: Data security should be the focus, and it's not. The correct approach is you do both. That means you can't simply go through a list of best practice to secure the container and expect data to be secure by proxy.

Why is that so important? Because data does not know how to protect itself. Security and appropriate use is not an intrinsic characteristic of the data. Data needs to be secured, and not just black-and-white access control settings, but by defining realistic threats and employing countermeasures. That takes more analysis beyond a configuration and vulnerability check list.

Consider that when we move data into a relational database we map data elements into rows and columns and match the data type to the data attributes. In essence we define the meta-data. This helps us keep bad data from being inserted, and it also helps us with reporting and analysis functions (e.g., high value, average, alphabetical ordering, etc). When we design tables we balance normalization for efficient storage with query performance. We rewrite queries to shorten the execution plan. We use primary keys to avoid duplicates. We partition tables to address scalability. We may use integrity constrains, foreign key relationships, or triggers to control how data is inserted and used. All of these items are design considerations.

It should be exactly the same for data security!

When was the last time you architected a database system for data security? I'll bet never. I think that is the thrust of Pete's argument: DBAs are focused on the container, not on the contents. The same care and attention to detail should be -- and can be -- given for data security as it is for database design. Data security measures are just another form of system design. Where is the sensitive information? How is it used? Who should have access to it? What threats should it be protected from? The answers to these questions help us select database internal features, such as labeling, masking, and auditing, that enhance access controls and authorization maps. Database activity monitoring augments database security measures to verify usage. In some cases we simply don't trust the database container, or the security measures are not granular enough, so we encrypt before it is stored -- at the application layer.

Next time you architect a database, include data security as one of your design constraints. Data security is the goal, and database security is just one of the building blocks to meet that goal.

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
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Cybersecurity Team Holiday Guide: 2019 Gag Gift Edition
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  12/2/2019
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-2019-19647
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
radare2 through 4.0.0 lacks validation of the content variable in the function r_asm_pseudo_incbin at libr/asm/asm.c, ultimately leading to an arbitrary write. This allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) or possibly have unspecified other impact via crafted input.
CVE-2019-19648
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-09
In the macho_parse_file functionality in macho/macho.c of YARA 3.11.0, command_size may be inconsistent with the real size. A specially crafted MachO file can cause an out-of-bounds memory access, resulting in Denial of Service (application crash) or potential code execution.
CVE-2019-19642
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
On SuperMicro X8STi-F motherboards with IPMI firmware 2.06 and BIOS 02.68, the Virtual Media feature allows OS Command Injection by authenticated attackers who can send HTTP requests to the IPMI IP address. This requires a POST to /rpc/setvmdrive.asp with shell metacharacters in ShareHost or ShareNa...
CVE-2019-19637
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is an integer overflow in the function sixel_decode_raw_impl at fromsixel.c.
CVE-2019-19638
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is a heap-based buffer overflow in the function load_pnm at frompnm.c, due to an integer overflow.