Isn’t it time we put cyber security in the spotlight in SA?

Across Europe and the USA, October is regarded as cyber security month. Every year, during this month, hundreds of activities like conferences, webinars and presentations take place to promote digital security and cyber hygiene.

In South Africa, however, we have no set month for promoting cyber security, despite the fact that the number of ransomware attacks in South Africa has doubled in the last year.

So perhaps it’s time we all take cyber security more seriously, starting now. And since the majority of cyber attacks are aimed at accessing your data, securing your database should be your first port of call.

Why is database security critical?

We’ve all heard the old adage that data is your company’s most important asset. To protect that asset, you can implement several layers of security: network, applications, system and database security.

Database security is the last line of defense to secure your data, but also, it is often the cheaper than other precursors. Plus, a secure database also offers a layer of protection for the data, application and associated management systems.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that database security is only for big organizations running hundreds of databases. These days it is virtually impossible to run any kind of business without generating or collecting data – even if you only have a handful of employees.

What are the most common database security threats?

While there are numerous terrifying stats out there that make it seem that the greatest data threats are nefarious hacker groups, that simply isn’t the case. You should never assume that threats are always external, the truth is that every threat can have both internal and external sources.

Threat 1: Unauthorized database access

Unauthorized database access is the most common security threat that organizations face. It involves someone (internal or external) gaining access to data that they shouldn’t have access to.

Internally, this can happen as easily as accidentally selecting the wrong person to share a data view with, or selecting the incorrect privileges on a table with your BI team. This can also be a result of malicious action, such as a disgruntled employee sharing sensitive data.

External parties can also gain access to databases by using unauthorized credentials.

Threat 2: Disabling of data

The disabling of data through encryption or deletion is another major threat to databases.

Data that you cannot access is just as troublesome as data that has been stolen. But how does data become disabled? Internally, data may be encrypted or deleted by a disgruntled employee, while an external source of data disabling could be a dreaded hacker group or some kind of infiltrator.

Threat 3: Human error

One of the greatest threats to your database is human error. People make mistakes and sometimes this can be the result of a lack of knowledge.

For example, the simple act of not managing excessive user and role privileges can lead to (accidental or malicious) unauthorized database access. Using weak passwords or poorly setting up and configuring your databases can also leave you vulnerable to attacks or data leaks.

Threat 4: Database management software vulnerabilities

Your database management software can also be vulnerable to attack. These systems are incredibly complex and require an expert touch to ensure they are as secure as possible.

Some of the most common DBMS vulnerabilities include:

SQL injections: When users are asked for input on a website or application, like their username or user ID, and instead, the user gives an SQL statement that you will unknowingly run on your database.

Buffer overflow: When the amount of data in the buffer exceeds its storage capacity. That extra data overflows into adjacent memory locations and corrupts or overwrites the data in those locations.

Distributed denial of service (DDOS): A malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming or flooding the target’s internet traffic.

malware: Malware (short for malicious software) is a type of intrusive software designed to damage and destroy computer systems. Most commonly, malware comes in the form of viruses, spyware, adware and ransomware.

Internally, these DBMS vulnerabilities can be the result of a lack of regular testing. Externally, these are typically exploited by third-party groups or hackers.

How do I know if a database is secure?

With so many database threats out there, how can you tell if your database is truly secure? Our team of experts has put together a checklist that will help you cover all your bases and ensure you are as secure as possible.

Here’s what you should be asking to ensure your database is secure:

● Is physical access to the database restricted?

● Is network access restricted?

● Is the administrative access secure?

● Do you always know who is accessing your database and for what purpose?

● Do you always know what data is being accessed and for what purpose?

● How much of the native database security features are you really using?

While you can’t prevent everything, you should put measures in place, like regular database audits and monitoring, to help you determine where your security gaps are. If you need help securing your database, get in touch with one of our database experts.

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