Over the years, databases have proven to be the most practical way of organizing large data sets. In fact, when you start dealing with large amounts of data, they are almost indispensable. Unfortunately, having all that data in one place can make them a very appealing target for hackers. Data might be the only type of valuable asset that can be easily replicated with no loss of value, and that presents some special security challenges. Here are some tips to help you know that your database is secure.
Use As Much Encryption As Possible
Encryption remains the most reliable way to protect data. There are ways to get around strong encryption, but most of those ways involve tricking the user into revealing the password via old-fashioned con artistry. However, when used responsibly and competently (with long and complex passwords), encryption is very hard to circumvent.
It is important to use both “at-rest” encryption and “in-motion” encryption. “At-rest” encryption means that you encrypt the files themselves. That way, even if someone manages to steal a file, its contents will just be a jumbled, unreadable mess. “In-motion” encryption uses TLS and HTTPS protocols to perform encrypted transmissions between the database server and the person who legitimately needs access. If either of these two aspects is neglected, it presents a glaring security hole.
Make Use Of Web Application Firewalls
In order to be useful, databases of important information will need to be accessible via the internet. This allows people to remotely check the information whenever it may be needed. However, you shouldn’t put that data online without first adding a web application firewall. This one might seem obvious but is often overlooked.
Firewalls restrict access by refusing connections from any non-approved sources. If you give them a strict set of rules, it is possible to greatly restrict the number of people who can access the data. It is good to take a page from the intelligence agencies here and keep everything on a “need-to-know” basis. In other words, no one is given access to data that they don’t immediately need.
Use Separate Servers For Your Database
It’s not a good idea to have your databases hosted on the same servers that run your normal network. Ideally, you want to have web servers (for ordinary internet access) and at least one dedicated database server. This creates an additional layer of security through which any potential attacker will have to break.
Keep Everything Updated
Security patches are vitally important, and they need to be applied without delay. What you may not realize is this: Whenever a security patch is released, its content can be decompiled and read by hackers. By doing this, they can get a better understanding of where that vulnerability lies and how they can exploit that vulnerability.
For this reason, it is vital to act quickly when a new update or security patch is released for your software/hardware. You don’t have a very large window of time before cyber-criminals start working to exploit those now-well-known flaws, so don’t delay on that sort of thing.
Consider Some Penetration Testing
When we talk about security assurances, we should at least mention the practice of penetration testing. You can hire a security expert to evaluate your security situation and expose any potential flaws. They do this by attempting to hack your database in much the same ways that a malicious hacker might do.
Regular penetration testing, when carried out by competent and trustworthy people, is the single best way to expose any vulnerabilities that may exist in your system. Until someone actually tries to gain illicit access, everything remains in the realm of theory. Penetration testing takes it into the realm of practical reality and allows you to fine-tune those crucial database servers.
Don’t Forget Your Back-ups!
Hackers are not the only threat to a database, even if they are the most severe ones. Simple data loss can also lead to some immense problems, and that is why smart companies and organizations perform regular data backups. It is possible to save huge amounts of data by compiling them into compressed “image” files. This basically gives you a “snapshot” of your current data and configuration, and you can use it to “load” everything and restore a damaged database.
Back-ups are essential because of the frequency of ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks basically involve a hacker encrypting your data against your will and then holding it for ransom. Even if you pay them the demanded amount, you still aren’t likely to recover access to that data (which is now compromised, anyway). Back-ups allow you to get off pretty easily, provided the hacker doesn’t target them as well!
There is no way for us to cover all the different precautions that might be taken in this short article. However, you can already see that securing a database is possible with the right precautions. In fact, a semi-private database is a lot easier to secure than most web traffic, mostly because it doesn’t need to be accessible to all that many people. If you are in need of some expert help to optimize your database security, you can call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.