Locking Down Your Data: Best Practices for Database Security

6 min read

Database security is a set of practices and technologies used to secure database management systems against malicious cyber-attacks and unauthorized access. Ensuring a database is intricate because it requires knowledge of multiple areas of information security, including application security, data security, and endpoint security.

Moreover, Database Security is the safeguarding of sensitive data and the prevention of data loss. Database Administrator (DBA) is responsible for ensuring database security.

The purpose of database security is to safeguard not just the information stored in the database but also the data management system and any applications that connect to it against unauthorized usage, corruption, or intrusion. A database’s physical or virtual server and the surrounding computing and network environment must be guarded and hardened for maximum security. Another aspect of database security involves safeguarding and strengthening the physical or virtual server that hosts the database and the associated computing and network infrastructure.

Database Security

What is Database Security?

Database security refers to the measures taken by businesses to safeguard their databases, DBMSs, and associated systems from intrusion and data loss. The data is harder to access and use thanks to the security controls, which include architectural methods, application design, procedural protocols, processes, and tools.

Inadequate implementation of database security measures can adversely affect operational efficiency, application performance, and user experience. Security must weigh functional requirements to reduce risk to an acceptable level while preserving usability. Furthermore, Database security in DBMS is a method for protecting and securing a database from malicious or unintentional attacks.

Best practices and procedures for database security design exclusively for databases. Organizations must protect their databases and the entire environment in which they operate. Implementing more general security best practices applicable to linked systems is also necessary for adequate database security.

Database Security Best Practices

Keep databases in a secure area with limited access to prevent hacking. The following are the eight best practices for Database Security.

Separate Database Servers

Regarding attacks, web servers are prime targets since they must be publicly available to use. A successful attack may grant the attacker access to the website or application’s host server, allowing them to access any other content hosted on the server.

Place databases on a distinct container, physical server, whether that be a physical or virtual server, to provide for further hardening and to prevent access in the event of a website or application compromise. For the separate server, merely activate the necessary ports. If feasible, change the default communication ports to make attacks more difficult to execute.

Certain experts suggest implementing an HTTPS proxy server as an intermediary between the database and the queries. However, functionally segregating the web and database servers can yield an equivalent outcome. But a proxy server may be helpful for internal network databases that can be accessed directly by authorized network users or devices. For enhanced database security, allocating the database server to a separate physical or virtual network segment and enforcing strict access privileges is advisable.

Ensure The Physical Database Security

When selecting the best hosting provider, consider finding a web hosting firm with a track record of treating security issues with the seriousness they deserve. If you want your website to be safe, you should avoid using free hosting services whenever possible.

Having video cameras, locks, and security personnel in place will help keep your servers safe from outside threats. All physical server access should be logged and granted only to the appropriate personnel to minimize the danger of harmful activity.

If you intend to use web servers, investigate the hosting company. Ensure that there are no red flags regarding previous data intrusions or loss. For enhanced database security, allocating the database server to a separate physical or virtual network segment and enforcing strict access privileges is advisable.

Secure Database User Access

Few people should use the database as feasible and as few programs and APIs as possible. To ensure secure access, grant access only after receiving network or application permission, and by the principle of least privilege. Additionally, grant access for the shortest feasible duration. User authorization, privileged access, and the usage of databases in development and operations (DevOps) are the three main branches of this best practice.

Also read: Data Breach: Common Causes, Process and Prevention Methods

User Authorisation

User Authorisation

The admin, or system administrator, controls who can access the database and how. The administrator assigns users the appropriate database roles and grants them rights. Row-level security (RLS) limits who can read and write to rows of data based on the user, their roles, and the query which runs.

Centralized identity and permission management, password storage reduction, and password rotation policies are possible with database security systems. Permissions should be managed by roles or groups rather than individual users in smaller organizations. Moreover, access control in DBMS prevents data breaches by restricting access to sensitive information to user groups and denying access to others.

Privileged Access

Admins should only have the privileges they need to do their jobs. Privileges should be provided and removed periodically. Larger companies use privileged access management (PAM) software to automate access management. Authorized users receive a temporary password, PAM logs activity, and inhibits password sharing.

DevOps Database Use

DevOps teams use test environments to ensure that applications can connect to and properly utilize databases, even though they are not technically users. Using production databases might cause unintended disclosures of sensitive information.

Use Database Firewalls

Access to databases makes them useful, but that access must be protected. Database-specific firewalls, which by default prevent access, form the first line of defense. The firewall should only allow traffic from authorized clients, such as programs, web servers, and end users. It should also prevent the database from making outgoing connections unless necessary.

Users should be restricted from having direct database access. Use established change management processes and security monitoring alarms to manage modifications to firewall rules. A more robust database server operating system firewall may be sufficient for organizations with fewer resources.

Maintain Frequent Application Updates

In nine out of ten applications, obsolete software components exist. Furthermore, research into WordPress plugins found that 17,383 had yet to be updated in two years, 13,655 in three years, and 3,990 in seven years. Using out-of-date software to manage databases or host a website is a significant security risk.

It’s important always to use database security management software from reputable providers. The software must also be consistently updated and patched promptly. Furthermore, it is advisable only to utilize widgets, plugins, and third-party applications with regular updates.

Harden The Database

It’s crucial for protecting the database, like the server, to prevent vulnerabilities and security breaches. Database hardening differs depending on the platform, but everyday actions include improving password protection and access controls. Safeguarding network traffic and encrypting sensitive database fields are also important measures.

Moreover, to prevent the exploitation of the database in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, disable or uninstall any services or features that are not currently in use. The database should enable all security controls. Enable some features by default. Others may be turned off for specific reasons. For each feature, examine it and document the reason for disabling it. For sensitive data, admins should activate row-level security and dynamic data masking.

Recommended Article: What are the Best Practices for Cyber Security in 2023?

Maintain Database Backups

It is recommended to back up both your website and database regularly. This means that private information is safe from accidental deletion or hacking.

Here’s how to make a database backup in Windows or Linux. As an extra precaution, encrypt the backup file before storing it on a separate server. A secondary database server keeps your information safe if your primary server becomes inaccessible or at risk.

Maintain Database Backups

Assign all Users Security Roles

Finally, we will discuss the majority’s strategy to ensure user database security. Role-based security is a relatively straightforward but highly effective method for restricting data access. Organizations that provide API access to their databases will benefit from this best practice.

In addition, security authentication is necessary for accessing a database using an API. Attempting to access the database without authentication severely restricts access and modifications. This method ensures that the database remains secure.

Conclusion: Best Practices for Database Security

Data breaches can result in penalties, adverse business effects, and legal action. Unfortunately, accidents and security incidents can occur even in well-prepared businesses. The cost will depend on how much risk the company is willing to take. Moreover, a solid database security practice will mitigate the growing threat of data breaches, even as attacks’ frequency, severity, and financial repercussions increase. Organizations should review, employ, and maintain as many best practices as possible in order to reduce their breach risk and future incident costs.

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