Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

1/11/2011
08:57 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
50%
50%

A Textbook Case For Monitoring

Vodafone's customer database leak demonstrates dangers of not properly monitoring database activity

A common problem with protecting sensitive database is limiting what data users see. An employee might be allowed to see any record in a database, but he is not allowed to see every record at the same point in time. For example, it's perfectly acceptable for customer service or a salesperson to view a customer record in service of that relationship. It's not OK that he be able to select the entire freakin' customer database.

But if the quotes from the management team are accurate, that's exactly what happened with the Vodafone data breach. And like many breaches, the company found out only when it was informed from someone outside the company.

The Vodafone case is a textbook example of why database activity monitoring (DAM) exists. One of the principle drivers behind monitoring software is to verify usage of systems or applications -- or conversely detect misuse. While this category of problem is commonly referred to as "the insider threat," that's really only a hyped subset of the specific operational problems being addressed. It's about protecting data while still performing the tasks the application was designed to perform. And this is most problematic with databases because the SQL query language is designed to return lots of information quickly and easily. Providing every row in the database except those filtered out by the "WHERE" clause is a core database feature. Validation of business and security rules is not.

Technologies like labeling can limit the rows within a table a single user is allowed to see, but it does not help limit the quantity of data extracted. Similarly, using an application or stored procedure to limit the amount of information a user can access at any one time can help, but most applications don't have this capability built in. Worse, they are expensive to retrofit and don't have the capabilities to track users over time. Perhaps most important, queries sent directly to the database bypass these controls. The point is there are several (kludgy) ways to accomplish the goal, but none is as easy or effective as DAM.

Every single DAM product on the market has policies to detect when a user selects "too many rows," or selects entire columns of sensitive information instead of a single row. Most have the capacity to track usage over time, so they build a profile of user activity and results and compare this with proper use models, alerting when there is a significant deviation from what is considered normal. At a minimum, someone runs "select * from customers" and security gets alerted. Some products will even block the query before the data is leaked. At the very minimum, even if you don't have a specific policy to protect data from the attack, you have an activity trail for forensic audits. This problem keeps popping up because most companies don't monitor or validate database usage.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security consulting practice. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Where Are the 'Great Exits' in the Data Security Market?
Dave Cole, Cofounder and CEO, Open Raven,  10/13/2020
Overcoming the Challenge of Shorter Certificate Lifespans
Mike Cooper, Founder & CEO of Revocent,  10/15/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7747
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-20
This affects all versions of package lightning-server. It is possible to inject malicious JavaScript code as part of a session controller.
CVE-2020-7748
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-20
This affects the package @tsed/core before 5.65.7. This vulnerability relates to the deepExtend function which is used as part of the utils directory. Depending on if user input is provided, an attacker can overwrite and pollute the object prototype of a program.
CVE-2020-7749
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-20
This affects all versions of package osm-static-maps. User input given to the package is passed directly to a template without escaping ({{{ ... }}}). As such, it is possible for an attacker to inject arbitrary HTML/JS code and depending on the context. It will be outputted as an HTML on the page wh...
CVE-2020-5640
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-20
Local file inclusion vulnerability in OneThird CMS v1.96c and earlier allows a remote unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code or obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-15256
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-19
A prototype pollution vulnerability has been found in `object-path` <= 0.11.4 affecting the `set()` method. The vulnerability is limited to the `includeInheritedProps` mode (if version >= 0.11.0 is used), which has to be explicitly enabled by creating a new instance of `object-path` and settin...