What Is Database Security?

By: Jessalynne Madden


Database security has never been more important than it is today. Having a working knowledge of what database security is and why it should be a top priority can help organizational leaders and IT pros prevent a myriad of security problems and the serious consequences associated with them.

What Is Database Security and Why Does It Matter?

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is database security?” Simply put, database security refers to security measures that are implemented to keep databases safe from cybercrime and the results of it, such as data loss and financial devastation. Security-focused measures, tools and security controls can keep databases confidential and enable IT pros to detect, prevent and mitigate cyberattacks.

Database security protects:

  • All the data in a database
  • Applications on the database
  • The database management system (DBMS)
  • The virtual and physical database server
  • The database hardware
  • The network infrastructure that allows entry to the database

Database security is vital because it keeps vulnerable data sound. Depending on the severity, data breaches can destroy an organization. Data loss can cause financial ruin, as well as ruin an organization’s reputation. Moreover, it has a direct effect on the lives of individuals whose information was stored in the compromised database.

An important aspect of database security is physical security. Physical security refers to the prevention of unauthorized individuals entering an organization and breaking into devices to gain access to sensitive data. Physical deterrents such as fences and gates promote physical security and, as a result, database security.

By implementing database security, organizations can avoid security breaches, observe regulatory compliance, avoid fines, keep brand reputation intact and ensure continuity of the company. Database security is that important.

4 Common Database Security Challenges

Organizations face database security challenges 24/7. Here are a few of the most prevalent challenges:

1. Human Error

This one isn’t about malicious hackers. It’s battling human error. Although innocent in motive, human error causes 95% of data breaches.

Hackers commonly target end users because, although they are authorized to use a database, they are often ignorant of data security and are therefore easily exploited. Cybercriminals watch how end users behave and find ways to use human error to their advantage. Although a passive attack, observation helps hackers exploit systems through individuals’ careless use of devices.

Human error can easily take place when security policies are overlooked or when employees are unaware of them. Unauthorized users of databases can also cause human error, even if it is unintentional. Keep in mind that insider threats aren’t always insidious. Authorized users with poor cybersecurity practices pose a great threat to an organization.

Much of the damage caused by human error in database security can be mitigated by educating unauthorized users about security policies. Database security best practices should be enforced. For example, database users should be taught to create strong passwords and change them regularly.

2. SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks are another security risk for organizations across all sectors. This type of malicious attack happens when an SQL query is inserted through the input data to an application, from the client.

When an SQL injection attack works as intended, sensitive information is exploited. Database data can also be modified and the content of a file on the DBMS file system can be recovered. Usually, SQL injection attacks are used on websites.

An SQL injection attack can be devastating because SQL commands are inserted into data-plane input during this type of attack. The point of this is to influence how predefined SQL commands are carried out, which positions hackers for financial gain.

Properly trained developers skilled in database security are the antidote to SQL injection attacks. Developers can both vet and control user input to observe patterns of attack. Security pros can fight SQL injection attacks with the following prevention methods:

  • Monitoring user access
  • Ensuring the input a user submits to a database is allowed
  • Parametrizing queries
  • Grouping at least one SQL statement into a unit to engineer an execution plan
  • Using character-escaping functions for any input supplied by users on a database management system

Building web applications and database firewalls is another method of preventing SQL injection attacks and promoting application security.

3. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS attacks are modern warfare. They differ from other information security threats, and it’s essential that organizational leaders and security professionals understand what they are.

During a DDoS attack, intruders prey on the typical behavior that occurs between servers and network devices. These attacks often target the network devices that form a connection to the internet. Therefore, cybercriminals zero in on edge network devices, such as routers and switches, instead of focusing on individual servers and web servers.

A DDoS attack is harmful because it swamps a network’s pipe (the bandwidth) or engulfs the devices that supply the bandwidth.

Security professionals must become aware of DDoS attacks and learn to fight them because they are on the rise. In 2021, DDoS attacks had increased by 154% in the previous two years. DDoS attackers tend to target healthcare organizations, government institutions, internet service providers (ISPs) and cloud service providers most often.

One of the best ways to fight DDoS attacks is via pattern recognition. This is especially helpful in the early stages of an attack. Skilled IT pros are superior to AI, machine learning and automated application helpers in differentiating between a DDoS attack and common web traffic.

The proper DDoS attack response steps include:

  • Detection
  • Filtering
  • Diversion and redirection
  • Forwarding and analysis
  • Alternate delivery

The current cybersecurity landscape demands that IT professionals have the skills needed to detect, respond to and mitigate DDoS attacks.

4. Malware Attacks

Cybercriminals want to harm databases. Malware, a word that combines “malicious” and “software,” helps them achieve their goal. Malware is software that is designed to exploit a database’s vulnerabilities. There are many endpoint devices that malware can arrive through. All endpoint devices should be protected, especially database servers. This is because they are both highly valuable and highly sensitive.

There are many types of malwares, including:

  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Trojans
  • Spyware
  • Bots
  • Ransomware
  • Adware
  • Rootkits
  • Keyloggers

Cybercriminals use malware to target mobile devices, as well as PCs, to gain unauthorized access to as much information as they can. Malware is also used to disrupt business operations.

Malware attacks are some of the easiest cyberattacks to prevent and mitigate. Ensuring simple security standards are upheld can prevent malware attacks.

Other measures to prevent malware attacks include:

  • Updating applications and operating systems
  • Installing antivirus software into devices
  • Not opening emails that come from suspicious or unverified sources
  • Removing malware from devices

When it comes to malware attacks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By creating and enforcing basic but effective data protection practices, malware attacks can be prevented.

How To Increase Security and Prevent Threats to Databases

Becoming aware of the many database security challenges organizations face is sobering. Thankfully, these challenges can be overcome. Organizations can increase security and prevent database security threats by using the methods outlined above and by keeping IT pros on staff who are skilled in cybersecurity.

Data security professionals are a company’s best defense against cyberattacks. They have numerous tools and techniques at their disposal to promote database security, such as:

  • Penetration testing
  • Authentication
  • Database auditing
  • Access management
  • Security testing
  • Data encryption
  • Data backups
  • Database activity monitoring
  • Database backup
  • User accounts management
  • Securing workloads that migrate across different cloud environments
  • Security patches
  • Real-time monitoring
  • Preventing misconfiguration in information systems
  • Exercising access control
  • Checking access control permissions
  • Key management

A threat hunter is thoroughly trained to identify, track and mitigate advanced threats. A database administrator can also be invaluable to a company as they manage every aspect of an organized database environment by using database management software and other tools. Database administrators also monitor and supervise data center solutions, such as hands-on support and troubleshooting. Even IT professionals with moderate knowledge of cybersecurity can help with data management and provide both cloud-based and on-premises security solutions that promote data privacy.

Prepare for a Role in Database Management

Are you an IT pro who wants to learn more about cybersecurity and begin preparing for a role in database management? If so, CompTIA Security+ was designed with you in mind.

CompTIA Security+ is chosen by more corporations and defense organizations than any other certification on the market to validate baseline security skills and for fulfilling the DoD 8570 compliance.

With CompTIA Security+, you’ll learn to:

  • Assess the security posture of an enterprise environment and recommend and implement appropriate security solutions
  • Monitor and secure hybrid environments, including cloud, mobile and IoT
  • Operate with an awareness of applicable laws and policies, including principles of governance, risk and compliance
  • Identify, analyze and respond to security events and incidents

Getting IT employees certified in CompTIA Security+ is a great way for organizations to improve database system security.

Ready to get started? Download the CompTIA Security+ exam objectives for free to see what's covered.

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