Database Management System Security Vulnerabilities

By Lawrence C. Miller, Peter H. Gregory

Database management systems are nearly as complex as the operating systems on which they reside. As a security professional, you will need to assess and manage any potential security problems. Vulnerabilities in database management systems include these:

  • Loose access permissions. Like applications and operating systems, database management systems have schemes of access controls that are often designed far too loosely, which permits more access to critical and sensitive information than is appropriate. This can also include failures to implement cryptography as an access control when appropriate.
  • Excessive retention of sensitive data. Keeping sensitive data longer than necessary increases the impact of a security breach.
  • Aggregation of personally identifiable information. The practice known as aggregation of data about citizens is a potentially risky undertaking that can result in an organization possessing sensitive personal information. Sometimes, this happens when an organization deposits historic data from various sources into a data warehouse, where this disparate sensitive data is brought together for the first time. The result is a gold mine or a time bomb, depending on how you look at it.

Database security defects can be identified through manual examination or automated tools. Mitigation may be as easy as changing access permissions or as complex as redesigning the database schema and related application software programs.