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Database Security

What is Database Security?

Database security is the set of measures, policies, and practices employed to protect a database from unauthorized access, manipulation, or destruction. Database security policies are designed to prevent sensitive data exposure and ensure the availability and integrity of records stored within a database system. 

Data breaches and unauthorized data manipulation can lead to significant financial and operational damage, which is why many companies are now prioritizing database and data storage security.

Database Security in Public Clouds

Public cloud providers offer both managed and unmanaged database services. Managed databases are pre-configured and maintained by the cloud provider, who is responsible for applying security patches, updating software, and ensuring high availability; unmanaged or semi-managed databases would be maintained by the customer on a virtual machine. (The physical infrastructure would still be managed by the cloud provider.)

In both cases, cloud database security follows the shared responsibility model. Cloud providers are always responsible for the security of the underlying infrastructure, including computing, storage, and networking resources – and for managed database services, they would also handle patching, updating, and monitoring for potential security issues.

On the other hand, organizations are responsible for securing the data stored within the databases, implementing necessary access controls, and complying with relevant regulations. This includes encrypting sensitive data, configuring database access permissions, monitoring suspicious activities, and training employees on security best practices.

Since organizations often lack access to cloud database servers, they would often need to use agentless security tools. These tools operate remotely, monitoring the database through APIs and data extracts without any software installed on the physical database. Agentless security tools will have the added advantage of minimizing impact on performance and cloud resource consumption.  Effective agentless security tools can provide real-time threat detection, vulnerability scanning, and compliance management to protect databases effectively, without imposing additional resource overheads.

To learn more, see our comparison of data security platforms, or see our previous articles on Redshift security.

Secure your cloud databases with Dig Security

Dig Security an is agentless, multi-cloud data security platform that protects your cloud data at rest, in motion, or in use, Leveraging data security posture management (DSPM) capabilities, Dig Security prevents sensitive data exposure by discovering assets in both managed and unmanaged databases (as well as cloud storage), identifying database misconfigurations and excessive access permissions, and alerting security teams to potential data exposures that could lead to a breach if not resolved.

Learn more about our data security solutions for AWS, Azure, or GCP.

Elements of Database Security

  • Authentication and identity management: Ensuring that only authorized users can access the database by implementing strong authentication mechanisms like multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), and proper role-based access control (RBAC). This allows for granular control over user privileges and access to sensitive data within the database.
  • Encryption: Protecting data at rest and in transit by encrypting it with industry-standard algorithms. This helps ensure that even if unauthorized access to the data occurs, the data remains unreadable without the appropriate decryption keys.
  • Data masking and redaction: Hiding sensitive data from users who do not have the necessary clearance by applying data masking or redaction techniques. This can include anonymizing, pseudonymizing, or obfuscating data to ensure that sensitive information remains protected, even when accessed by authorized users with limited privileges.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention: Implementing intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to monitor and protect the database from malicious activities. These technologies can help detect and block attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the database system.
  • Backup and disaster recovery: Regularly backing up data and creating a robust disaster recovery strategy to minimize the impact of data loss or corruption due to hardware failures, software errors, or malicious actions. This allows the organization to quickly restore the database to a secure and operational state following an incident.
  • Patch management: Staying up-to-date with database software patches and updates helps protect against known vulnerabilities and security flaws. Implementing a patch management policy ensures that updates are applied in a timely and consistent manner, reducing the likelihood of exploitation.
  • Access control: Implementing granular access control policies, such as the principle of least privilege, which ensures that users are only granted the necessary permissions required for their role. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access or manipulation of data by limiting what each user can do within the database. (See: What is data access governance?)
  • Network security: Securing the network infrastructure that connects to the database by implementing firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other security measures. This helps prevent unauthorized access to the database by safeguarding the communication channels between the database and the rest of the organization's systems.
  • Monitoring and alerting: Regularly monitoring database performance, user activity, and potential security threats to identify anomalies and potential breaches. Implementing real-time alerts can help notify the security team of any suspicious activities, enabling rapid response to mitigate potential risks.

Database Security: 8 Best Practices

Implementing some database security best practices can help organizations protect their databases from unauthorized access and data exfiltration. Some of these best practices include:

  1. Review and update database security policies and procedures regularly.
  2. Monitor database activities and generate security reports to identify and address any gaps in the security posture.
  3. Implement strong passwords, MFA, and RBAC to prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Encrypt data at rest and in transit to protect it from unauthorized access or manipulation.
  5. Apply patches and updates promptly to ensure database software is up-to-date and secure against known vulnerabilities.
  6. Perform regular backups and establish a disaster recovery strategy.
  7. Conduct risk assessments and vulnerability scans to identify potential weak points in the database security posture.
  8. Educate staff about the importance of database security and their role in maintaining it.