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

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 5/28/2020
How an Industry Consortium Can Reinvent Security Solution Testing
Henry Harrison, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Garrison,  5/21/2020
10 iOS Security Tips to Lock Down Your iPhone
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  5/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-11949
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
testserver.cgi of the web service on VIVOTEK Network Cameras before XXXXX-VVTK-2.2002.xx.01x (and before XXXXX-VVTK-0XXXX_Beta2) allows an authenticated user to obtain arbitrary files from a camera's local filesystem. For example, this affects IT9388-HT devices.
CVE-2020-11950
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
VIVOTEK Network Cameras before XXXXX-VVTK-2.2002.xx.01x (and before XXXXX-VVTK-0XXXX_Beta2) allows an authenticated user to upload and execute a script (with resultant execution of OS commands). For example, this affects IT9388-HT devices.
CVE-2020-13645
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
In GNOME glib-networking through 2.64.2, the implementation of GTlsClientConnection skips hostname verification of the server's TLS certificate if the application fails to specify the expected server identity. This is in contrast to its intended documented behavior, to fail the certificate verificat...
CVE-2020-13643
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
An issue was discovered in the SiteOrigin Page Builder plugin before 2.10.16 for WordPress. The live editor feature did not do any nonce verification, allowing for requests to be forged on behalf of an administrator. The live_editor_panels_data $_POST variable allows for malicious JavaScript to be e...
CVE-2020-13644
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
An issue was discovered in the Accordion plugin before 2.2.9 for WordPress. The unprotected AJAX wp_ajax_accordions_ajax_import_json action allowed any authenticated user with Subscriber or higher permissions the ability to import a new accordion and inject malicious JavaScript as part of the accord...