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Strategies For Protecting Web-Facing Databases

The Web is the cybercriminal's favorite medium for attacking your database. But some databases must face the Web. Here are some tips for protecting that exposed data
[Excerpted from "Strategies For Protecting Web-Facing Databases," a new report published this month in Dark Reading's Database Security Tech Center.]

What do recent database attacks have in common?Answer: in moste cases, the criminals used the Web as an attack vector. Web applications, by their very nature, expose your infrastructure to the public. And we have plenty of evidence that demonstrates that people will, for fun or profit, hack your databases.

So how do you keep Web-facing databases secure? Removing them from the Web would be the easy answer, but a system that does not serve a business function is worthless to the company. Companies push more features and functions to the Web to better serve their customers and, in turn, generate more revenue. That is the focus of their efforts.

There is no doubt that once an application is serving customers and making money, no one is willing to pull it out of service in the name of security. Revenue trumps database security, so it’s the job of security professionals to figure out how to secure databases with limited resources while keeping the business systems operational.

In practical terms, all applications and databases created today are designed to communicate over Web protocols -- as an option, if not the primary communications channel. And every Web application has a database that manages data and application "state." In essence, databases hold the record of all activity that has occurred up to now.

Some of you may be asking at this point, "Doesn’t the application protect the database?" or "Isn’t the database shielded behind the application?" The answer to both of these questions is "no."

Many IT administrators have considered databases safe, or at least less accessible to attack, because they sit "behind" the Web application that directly serves users. In reality, many attacks are passed directly to the database from the calling application. Unless the application was designed and built to cleanse user data before it reaches the database, it’s merely a gateway used by a remote attacker to hack into a database.

Applications only shield databases from specific -- or specific classes -- of attack if they were programmed to do so. Most applications are not coded to protect a database by default, so assume your databases are as exposed to bad actors as any other Web application.

For a detailed list of attacks and threats to Web-facing databases -- as well as a list of strategies for defending against those threats -- download the free report on protecting Web-facing databases.

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