Database Security Threats and Countermeasures

Information is very critical asset. Organizations create so much information and they use database systems to handle the information within them to automate various functions. Due to information importance, information protection is a critical component of the database management system. Information security is the goal of a database management system (DBMS), also called database security.

To be able to manage a huge amount of data effectively and fast, a well organized system is needed to build. It will also need to store and retrieve data easily. Generally, a database system is designed to be used by many users simultaneously for the specific collections of data. Databases are classified based on their types of collections, such as images, numeric, bibliographic or full-text. Digitized databases are created by using management system to make, store, maintain or search the data. Oracle, MS SQL and Sybase servers are mostly used in companies, agencies and institutions for their different purposes of the assets.

On the one hand, internetworking technology provides the assets efficiently and effectively among cooperation but it also gives opportunities to hackers or lawbreakers to make profits. So, database security becomes the most important issue and all related agencies have to focus on the availability of their data to the authorized users only. The protection of data from unauthorized disclosure, alteration or destruction is the main purpose of the database security process.

Database security is the system, processes, and procedures that protect database from unintended activity that can be categorized as authenticated misuse, malicious attacks made by authorized individuals or processes. Databases have been protected from external connections by firewalls or routers on the network perimeter with the database environment. Database security can begin with the process of creation and publishing of appropriate security standards for the database environment.

Particularly database systems in E-commerce, can access the database for exchange and retrieval of information from web applications. As many layers consisted for web application access, it is needed to make sure the security of each layer.

Importance of Database Security

In this information technology age, it is compulsory for all types of institutions or companies to make avail their information assets online always through databases. However, they must have a policy to divide the levels of users with to which extent they can asset the information. It is vital not to give opportunities to mischievous intruders. Databases are used to provide personnel information, customer information, credit card numbers, financial data and business transactions, etc. The information is very sensitive and highly confidential and must be prevented from disclosure by other competitors and unauthorized persons.

The security of data is crucial not only in business but also in even home computers as personal files, details of bank accounts are difficult to replace and potentially unsafe if they will be in wrong hands. Data destroyed by hazards like floods or fire is just lost but handing it in unethical person will have severe consequences.Other threats will be included human errors and espionage. Therefore, the data security starts with strategies of identifying the area of exposure which will be affected. It is important to define who can access what data, who is allowed and who is restricted, whether passwords are used and how to maintain it, what sort of firewalls and anti-malware solutions to use, how to train the staff and to enforce data security. Furthermore, the backup continuity plan should be laid out so that even though the systems fail, the business can be carried out without delay.

While constructing the infrastructure security of a company, database security should be well considered. Database is very crucial to most enterprises at present days; the damage of database will have tragic impact on it. Unsecured systems will make hurt both the company itself and itsclients.

Based on the research done by American National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) in 2000, the continuous attacks on U.S. e-commerce system are increasing. The most interrupted system is Microsoft Windows NT systems, but UNIX based operating systems have also been maltreated. The hackers are utilizing at least three identified system weaknesses to be able to achieve illegal access and download information. Even though these vulnerabilities are not freshly innovated and the mischievous activities of hackers had been in progress for quite long before the sufferer became noticed of the intrusion.

The insecurity of the database can affect not only the database itself, but also the other running systems which have the relationship with that database.The process of an intruder can be first to get access to the poorlysafe database, then use strongbuilt-in database characters to get admission to the local operating system. In this way, other trusted systems connecting with that database will be easily attacked by the intruder.

Database Security Threats

Database security begins with physical security for the systems that host the database management system (DBMS). Database Management system is not safe from intrusion, corruption, or destruction by people who have physical access to the computers. Once physical security has been established, database must be protected from unauthorized access by authorized users as well as unauthorized users. There are three main objects when designing a secure database system, and anything prevents from a database management system to achieve these goals would be consider a threat to database security. There are many internal and external threats to database systems. Some of threats are as follows:

  1. Integrity: Database integrity refers that information be protected from improper modification. Modification includes creation, insertion, modification, changing the status of data, and deletion. Integrity is lost if unauthorized changes are made intentionally or through accidental acts. For example, Students cannot be allowed to modify their grades.
  2. Availability: Authorized user or program should not be denied access. For example, an instructor who wishes to change a student grade should be allowed to do so.
  3. Secrecy: Data should not be disclosed to unauthorized users. For example, a student should not be allowed to see and change other student grades.
  4. Denial of service attack: This attack makes a database server greatly slower or even not available to user at all. DoS attack does not result in the disclosure or loss of the database information; it can cost the victims much time and money.
  5. Sniff attack: To accommodate the e-commerce and advantage of distributed systems, database is designed in a client-server mode. Attackers can use sniffer software to monitor data streams, and acquire some confidential information. For example, the credit card number of a customer.
  6. Spoofing attack: Attackers forge a legal web application to access the database, and then retrieve data from the database and use it for bad transactions. The most common spoofing attacks are TCP used to get the IP addresses and DNS spoofing used to get the mapping between IP address and DNS name.
  7. Trojan Horse: It is a malicious program that embeds into the system. It can modify the database and reside in operating system.

Database Security Countermeasures

To protect the database system from the above mentioned threats. Here are some countermeasures which are as follows:

  1. Access Control: A database for an organization contains a great deal of information and usually has several users. Most of them need to access only a small part of the database. A policy defines the requirements that are to be implemented within hardware and software and those that are external to the system, including physical, personal, and procedural controls.
  2. Flow Control: Flow control provides the flow of information among accessible objects. Flow controls check that information contained in objects does not flow explicitly or implicitly into less protected objects.
  3. Encryption: An encryption algorithm should be applied to the data, using a user-specified encryption key. The output of the algorithm is the encrypted version. There is also a decryption algorithm, which takes the encrypted data and a decryption key as input and then returns the original data.
  4. RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks which protect against data loss due to disk failure.
  5. Authentication: Access to the database is a matter of authentication. It provides the guidelines how the database is accessed. Every access should be monitored.
  6. Backup: At every instant, backup should be done. In case of any disaster, Organizations can retrieve their data.

To achieve these objectives, a clear and consistent security policy should be developed to define what security measure must be enforced. We must determine what part of data is to be protected and which users get access to which part of the information. The security mechanisms of the underlying database management system, as well as external mechanism, such as securing access to buildings, must be utilized to enforce the policy.

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