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Secure Data Protection

8 Database Security Best Practices to Know

September 05, 2023

10 minute read

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Database security is more important than ever. Cybercriminals are mounting attacks at a ferocious rate, stolen personal information is often auctioned off to the highest bidder on the dark web, and an increasing number of organizations handle that kind of data for business operations on a regular basis.

This surge in cybercrime and hacking has forced organizations to place an increased emphasis on system defense and cybersecurity in order to protect the valuable information they house.

“77% of companies are woefully ill-prepared and planned when it comes to thwarting an attack or a data breach.”

As such, database security is absolutely crucial for the modern organization looking to remain competitive while keeping valuable data properly secured.

This blog post will look at eight ways you can reinforce your database security strategy to ensure you have the best shot at defending your network from any number of cyberattacks:

  • Ensure databases on physical hardware are secured
  • Have multiple servers and segmented data
  • Install a proxy server
  • Implement an encryption protocol
  • Ensure your database is regularly backed up
  • Update applications on a regular basis
  • Commit to password protocols
  • Limit user access

Cybersecurity needs to be a constant thread in your organization, no matter if your staff is remote, in-house, or even traveling regularly; review DOT Security’s Cybersecurity Checklist for When You’re on the Go for tips on how to stay secure no matter where it is you’re working.

What Is Database Security?

Database security is defined as: The solutions, protocols, and standards used to create and maintain database integrity and information availability so that personal and sensitive data can be handled safely.

Database security will focus on the following key areas:

  • Database management system (DBMS).
  • Any software applications connected to databases.
  • Database access.
  • Any physical hardware used by the databases.
  • Cloud services and off-site database defense.

Database security involves many key elements found in information security (InfoSec), and must be conducted in a way that both protects the data and ensures that users can access the information they need, when they need it.

8 Best Practices for Database Security

Database security is just one aspect of an overarching and comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Its main purpose is to protect the database itself from malicious or unauthorized users and cyberattacks. By implementing database security tactics, you can better your overall cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of a costly breach.

While the financial hit a data breach will cause is certainly a main concern, it’s not the only concern. There is also reputational damage to consider with partners, consumers, and even employees.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into eight central practices central for a solid database security strategy.

1. Ensure Databases on Physical Hardware are Secured

While many organizations are shifting to the cloud, it’s common for businesses to maintain on-premise servers as part of a “hybrid” setup. While working through a more comprehensive digital transformation, organizations sometimes like to ease themselves into larger transitions.

This essentially means maintaining some databases on the cloud while storing others (often containing more sensitive information) on physical servers that are kept on-site.

It may sound a little obvious, but the physical security of any server hardware kept on-site is crucial. Access should be carefully monitored, and ideally servers are kept in a dedicated and locked room only accessible to authorized personnel.

2. Multiple Servers and Segmented Data

Where is your cloud and on-site data kept? There are advantages to maintaining a single database for all of your company's information, but this also means any malicious actor who gains access will have the keys to the entire kingdom. This is a pretty glaring single-point-of-failure. Additionally, many organizations simply work with too much data to realistically keep it all on a single server.

As such, many organizations opt for multiple servers. This gives them more flexibility in what they keep where, and also makes it much harder for a cybercriminal to move laterally from one server to another.

This is the same idea behind data segmentation within servers. Rather than granting employees access to the entire pool of data on a server, you can segment the data, essentially putting up walls so if one person's credentials are compromised, the entire server isn’t at jeopardy.

3. Install a Proxy Server

Proxy servers help weed out unauthorized users by acting as a secure gateway to the server. A proxy can act like a firewall between a business’ internal systems and the public Internet.

This is an important defensive layer that adds a lot of protection for employees who are regularly using the internet (and in today’s day and age, that should be just about everyone). Proxy servers improve organizational security by protecting employee privacy while on the web, controlling websites accessed in office, and balancing internet traffic to prevent traffic.

Without deploying a proxy server, hackers have easy access to the IP address of an organization, which they can then use to infiltrate a computer or network and use the gained access to steal sensitive information.

4. Implement an Encryption Protocol

Encryption is extremely useful for companies looking to protect their data. Encrypted data is coded so that it can only be understood with the proper key. In the context of a data breach, if a malicious user successfully steals encrypted data from an organization, they won’t be able to decipher it without the matching decryption protocol.

An example of this on a Windows system is Encrypting File System (EFS) tech. With EFS, only authorized users can access data, while unauthorized users (like cybercriminals who have infiltrated a network) cannot, even if they have full access to a network device.

By implementing data encryption processes, you’re giving the data itself another layer of protection from cybercriminals.

5. Ensure Your Database is Regularly Backed Up

Database security and secure backups go hand-in-hand.

Modern image-based systems for backing up mean that downtime is kept to an absolute minimum (often virtually zero with today’s tier III and IV cloud data centers) should the primary database have to be shut down in the event of a breach.

By committing to a regular data backup schedule, you can seriously mitigate the impact of lost or stolen data on your organization with full restoration in minutes.

6. Update Applications on a Regular Basis

Zero-day cyberattacks are when a software exploit is discovered and taken advantage of by a cybercriminal before developers have a chance to patch it.

Once a vulnerability has been patched, developers will send out an update to users. If users do not update their applications, there is a far greater probability that they will be exposed to these zero-day exploits, and thus it is vital that apps are kept up to date.

Any software your organization deploys needs to be monitored closely for updates and vulnerabilities both. In a breaking cybersecurity news story just earlier this year, a massive cyberattack was launched against a series of WordPress users. Hackers discovered an unpatched vulnerability in a popular plugin called Ultimate Member that allowed them to create shadow administrator accounts with all the attached authorization.

Malicious users wreaked havoc on their victims, taking total control over their sites, and locking them out completely. This goes to show just how important it is to update software regularly.

7. Password Protocols

Human error is the leading cause of data breaches. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know this too and often prey on our human nature through social engineering attacks. These typically come as phishing scams and are designed to trick employees into giving up their credentials to an unauthorized user.

To help your staff avoid falling victim to a phishing scam, you can implement regular cybersecurity awareness training, and commit to a stronger password policy that utilizes multi-factor authentication software.

The use of modern authentication protocols like multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides a simple and almost impenetrable way of securing information. MFAs typically require two or more verification methods to sign-in to a system, like a phone code and password.

"Microsoft found in its research that MFA could eliminate up to 99% of cyberattacks."

8. Limiting User Access

User access is an important aspect of information security, and of database security, too.

Too often, businesses neglect to amend their user access standards, meaning users are sometimes authorized to access data they don’t need for their regular day-to-day tasks. This is dangerous because it opens up an additional vulnerability within your organization. If a single staff member has their credentials compromised, there’s generally no mitigating the damage that can be done.

By limiting the data to which individual users have access and segmenting the data hosted across your servers, both on-site and on the cloud, you can greatly reduce the amount of exposure your organization faces in the event of a successful cyberattack.

All-in-all, users should only have access to the information they need for their role within the organization.

Bottom Line

Database security is more important today than it’s ever been for organizations previously; with more vicious cyberattacks, more advanced technology, and a far higher volume of information being shared and handled through cloud applications. That means businesses need to ready their defense systems.

Consider these best practices when building out your cybersecurity posture, especially in regards to keeping databases safe and secure.

Cybersecurity isn’t just an in-office or on-site concern. To protect your staff while they’re out and about, review DOT Security’s Cybersecurity Checklist for When You’re on the Go.