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Database Security in a Dynamic IT World

  • March 2015
  • 9 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2837202


Table of Contents


Databases are under attack. Public statements by Target, Home Depot, and Anthem following their highly publicized data breaches are both uniform and succinct on how their breaches unfolded: unauthorized access to IT systems that ultimately led to extraction of sensitive information. Excerpts from Home Depot’s and Anthem’s statements serve to illustrate:
• Home Depot – Criminals used a third-party vendor’s user name and password to enter the perimeter of Home Depot’s network. These stolen credentials alone did not provide direct access to the company’s point-of-sale devices. The hackers then acquired elevated rights that allowed them to navigate portions of Home Depot’s network and to deploy unique, custom-built malware on its self-checkout systems in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to the previously disclosed payment card data, separate files containing approximately 53 million email addresses were also taken during the breach.
• Anthem – These attackers gained unauthorized access to Anthem’s Information Technology (IT) system and have obtained personal information from our current and former members such as their names, birthdays, medical IDs/Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data.

Data breach costs are mounting. Although the impact of data breaches on brand and business is difficult to segregate from other influences, what is clear is that there are tangible expenses that the breached companies incur; for example, in their good faith efforts to protect affected individuals from further damage with free credit monitoring and identity protection services. Also, class-action lawsuits represent another expense. Target, for example, received preliminary approval on a $ million settlement related to its 2013 breach; a token amount relative to $ million, primarily in legal fees, the company reportedly spent in 2014.3 There are also forensics investigations to conduct, usually through a third party, and changes in technologies and processes to ward off a breach reoccurrence.

These three companies are not alone; they represent the growing trend of data breaches resulting from hacking.4 According to Verizon, in its 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, hacking contributed to data breaches more frequently than any other threat action; and hacking’s frequency has been increasing over the last three years.5 Malware and social engineering (e.g., phishing), which are commonly used with hacking, are second and third in frequency, respectively. From this same report, servers (inclusive of database servers) are the primary data breach target.

While attacks on traditional on-premises databases are reason enough to be concerned, big data and cloud deployments elevate the concern. Many big data initiatives are organizational experiments with new types of data stores (e.g., Hadoop and NoSQL) and new data sources, looking to unlock valuable insights that can fuel new revenue-generating and cost-cutting processes. But such experimentation, unless carefully managed from the start and into production, can increase the risk of data breaches. Second, cloud adoption contributes to a more agile and dynamic IT environment, but it places data in environments that are not fully in the organization’s control, both figuratively and literally.

Recognizing that big data and cloud will be part of the IT future for most organizations, and can also be sizable data repositories, Stratecast believes that organizations must prepare for all contingencies in developing a database security strategy. What matters most in this preparation is that the organization can adroitly manage the risks associated with sensitive data, across a variety of IT environments, while also maximizing the data’s business value. In this SPIE, we examine database security fundamentals that help to ensure high levels of flexibility in data use, and effectiveness in data protection.

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