Aug 21 2008   3:48PM GMT

How to Audit Databases: Part I

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Databases are enormous, powerful repositories of data. They can hold payroll, HR personnel data (think social security numbers) stock prices, Accounts Receivable, Client Relationship Management, and customer information. Banks can’t live without them. Most medium and many small sized businesses use them, too.

They are the motherlode of the organization and the last line of defense in a hack. It’s critical that DBAs have the tools at their disposal to monitor and provide reporting. If your database isn’t secure, the hacker won’t care how well indexed it is.

And there are a lot of ways in. If I have administrative access to the server, I can copy all the database files, take them away and reload them on my own database server. If I have unencrypted backups of those files, I can do the same thing.

So the first step in auditing the database is to examine the server the database is running on. This gets confusing to non-DBAs and auditors because many of the terms used inside the database are similiar to server terms. It’s important to keep them separate, and to make sure that access to the database files on the server is monitored. Server administrators do not need to have access to those files, but they may have to, in order to manage/backup the server. So, set up logging.
Make sure everyone who has a need to access that server administratively has a unique ID. Remove access to root(*NIX) or Administrator (Windows). They can have administrative rights, just make sure you can identify them by ID and IP connection.

Finally, what about the backup tapes? If they are not encrypted, you can join the “breach list” of companies that have lost their data when tapes were misplaced, stolen, or “disappeared.”

NEXT: Inside the Database “Server”

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