Organizations and businesses must use a range of measures, protocols, and tools to protect their databases from cybercriminals. If breached, malicious actors can gain access to sensitive information that they can use for financial gain. Security teams must adapt and constantly improve to protect against ever-evolving security threats, and maintain the integrity of a database.
This article will discuss the major database security threats, and how you can prevent them.
1. SQL Injection Attacks
SQL injection is the most common threat. This attack is performed by entering a query into a SQL form, and if the database interprets the result as “true” it enables access to the database. These attacks usually target relational database management systems (RDBMS) based on the SQL programming language.
Databases not based on SQL (NoSQL) are not susceptible to such attacks. Instead, NoSQL databases are targeted by queries delivered by an end-user that uses commands to execute malware.
Both methods are equally threatening, getting around verification systems by obtaining credentials and then exposing the structure and content of the database. A successful attack would give an attacker free reign of everything contained within the database.
Malware is designed to target vulnerabilities on a network, granting access to a database, or causing damage to it. These vulnerabilities relate to unprotected endpoints on a network that can be exploited via a range of different attacks.
For IT teams to protect against malware attacks, it is important to identify the attack surface of a network. The attack surface refers to the number of vulnerabilities on a network that a cybercriminal could target.
3. Denial of Service (DoS/DDoS) Attacks
A Denial of Service (DoS) attack occurs when a database server receives more requests than it can process, causing the system to become unstable or crash. These erroneous requests can be created by an attacker and directed at a specific target. The volume of fake requests overwhelms the system, resulting in downtime for the victim.
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack uses a botnet (a very large network of computers) to create a huge amount of traffic that even the most advanced security systems would struggle to prevent. The best defense against these types of attacks is to employ a cloud-based DoS protection service that can help to limit high and suspicious traffic volume.
4. Poor Permission Management
Many organizations fail to change the default security settings from when a database server is initially installed. Just a few years ago, as many as 20% of companies were not even changing default passwords on privileged accounts. This leaves them vulnerable to an attack from attackers who know the defaults and, more importantly, how they can be exploited.
Criminals may obtain log-in details of privileged accounts when accessing the database. Inactive accounts can also present a risk if an attacker is aware of their existence. This is why permissions management should be at the forefront when developing the cybersecurity portion for your business as a whole, using zero trust protocols to prevent unauthorized access.
Occasionally, a user can be accidentally given permissions to the database that they shouldn’t have access to. This presents an opportunity for hackers to target such users with phishing scams or other tactics that attempt to launch malware on their devices.
Cybercriminals can also attempt to seize control of the organization’s data management system, altering privileges so they can gain database access at any time.
5. Database Backup Exposures
Backing up a database regularly is obviously recommended, but often, many of these backups are left unprotected, making them a common target for attackers. Securing backups is especially vital for industries that hold vital customer information, such as healthcare providers or banks and financial institutions.
To prevent database exposures, you should:
- Encrypt your database and any backups that are made.
- Conduct regular audits of databases and their backups to record who has been accessing this data.
6. Inadequate Auditing
Poor auditing can present a golden opportunity to cybercriminals, rendering your database non-compliant with data security regulations. Organizations are required to register all events that take place on a database server and conduct regular auditing. Of course, such auditing is best using automated systems.
A failure to implement effective auditing procedures increases the chances of a successful cyberattack. However, it is also important that any automated auditing software does not impact the overall performance of the database.
7. Unprotected Databases Due to Misconfiguration
Attacks resulting from misconfiguration are also commonly caused because of unprotected databases when some parameters and accounts are left unchanged from their initial default settings. Using these defaults, an experienced attacker can gain access. This is why businesses should always ensure their databases are being managed correctly, using thorough procedures and audits. Database management should be conducted by an expert, whether this is an in-house professional or an external cybersecurity firm.
Social engineering attacks, such as phishing or click-bait advertising can be used to obtain log-in credentials that an attacker can use to access a network and database.
9. Unencrypted data
Data encryption is a fundamental and crucial component of any cybersecurity policy, and especially when it comes to the protection of financial information. All account and financial data that is stored within your financial institution should be encrypted. This way, even if any of the data is stolen, encryption guarantees that it is unusable. In fact, at least one cybersecurity law prescribes data encryption for compliance with the regulation
How To Prevent Database Security Threats
Below are preventative measures to reduce your database’s vulnerability regarding cybersecurity threats:
- Better employee training so best practices are used daily.
- Determining the attack surface of your network and database.
- Using a zero trust system.
- Deleting inactive accounts and limiting privileges for standard users.
- Encrypting the database and all backups.
- Blocking potentially malicious web requests.
- Monitoring who accesses the database and analyzing usage patterns.
- Using masking to hide database fields that contain sensitive information.
There are many different security threats that can pose a significant risk to the data of your organization and clients. The most common database threat is SQL injection, but attacks such as Denial of Service and malware are equally dangerous. Training your employees, using encryption, and managing user privileges are some of the best ways to protect your database from a cyberattack.
About the Author: Isla Sibanda is an ethical hacker and cybersecurity specialist based out of Pretoria. For over twelve years, she’s worked as a cybersecurity analyst and penetration testing specialist for several reputable companies – including Standard Bank Group, CipherWave, and Axxess.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.