Database Security: Threats, Best Practices & Tips

Published on 19 August 2022 12:00 AM

🍿🍿 8 min. read

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The infrastructure of any large organization includes huge amounts of data. This data is stored and managed by databases, which are one of the main targets of attackers. Hasty compromise of such sensitive assets leads to significant losses and risks. In this article, we look at the basic methods and best practices for ensuring and improving database security.

What is Database Security?

Database security refers to a set of measures, various tools, control measures and measures to ensure the confidentiality, availability and integrity of databases. The purpose of database security procedures is not only to protect it, but also each associated application that interacts with it.

In these processes, it is important to combine the convenience and availability of the database. The more convenient and accessible the database is, the greater its susceptibility to intrusions, attacks and potential threats. The more vulnerable it is to attacks and threats, the more difficult it is to access and use it.

Database Security Threats

Incorrect processes, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or miss configurations can lead to security breaches. Let's look at the most common threats and their causes.

Insider Threats

An Insider Threat is one of the top security threats from any of three database privileged sources:

  • Malicious insider with the intent to cause harm
  • Unintentional insider errors that make the database vulnerable to attacks
  • An outsider who obtains credentials through social engineering, social media, or other methods gains access to the database.

Insider threats are one of the most common causes of database security breaches and are often made possible by too many employees having privileged access rights.

Human Error

Human error is the cause of most attacks. These can be weak passwords, the same passwords for all resources, forgotten / old accounts and passwords in plain text (internal wiki, git repository, etc.)

Database Vulnerabilities

Attackers are trying to find out the version of the software used in order to get available vulnerabilities and plan the next steps of the attack. New vulnerabilities are discovered daily, vendors of commercial database software regularly release security fixes. However, if you don't install these security fixes quickly enough, your database may be under attack.

For example, you can subscribe to updates of your software with Vulners subscriptions and regularly receive information about upcoming updates with new vulnerabilities.

SQL/NoSQL Injection Attacks

SQL injections are also one of the most common database threats and are part of OWASP top 10 all the time.

Organizations are open to these attacks if they do not adhere to secure methods of developing web applications in their SDK (Software Development Life Cycle) and do not conduct appropriate testing of web applications.

Buffer Overflow Attacks

Buffer overflow is one of the most common software vulnerabilities. It consists in the fact that in some place of the program, data is copied from one part of memory to another without checking whether there is enough space for them where they are copied. The memory area where data is copied is commonly called a buffer. Thus, if there is too much data, then some of it falls outside the buffer boundaries - a "buffer overflow" occurs. Attackers can use redundant data stored in neighboring memory addresses as a starting point to launch attacks.

Denial of Service DoS and DDoS Attacks

DoS attack is the act of causing harm by making the target system, such as a database or application, inaccessible to end users. Typically, attackers generate a large number of packets or requests that eventually overload the target system.

For a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, the attacker uses many hacked or controlled sources (BotNet). It can be IoT devices like TVs, routers and other smart home devices with internet access.


Malicious software is software designed to exploit vulnerabilities or harm databases. Malware can try to exploit the database with collected information in many ways. Malware protection is important on any target system, but special attention should be paid to database servers due to their high value and sensitivity.

An Evolving IT Environment

The evolving IT environment is making databases more susceptible to threats. Consider trends that may lead to new threats to databases or may require new protective measures:

Huge amounts of data. The collection, storage and processing of data continues to grow exponentially in almost all organizations. Any data security tools or methods need to be scalable in the near future.

Infrastructure growth. Network environments are becoming more complex, especially as companies move workloads to multi-cloud or hybrid cloud architectures, making it even more difficult to select, deploy, and manage security solutions.

Strict regulatory requirements. The global compliance situation continues to become more complex, making it difficult to comply with all regulations and methodologies.

Cybersecurity skills shortage is a global problem. Unfortunately, most organizations only start paying close attention to cybersecurity after a breach, data breach, or other incident. This moment is a direct threat to such critical infrastructure assets as databases.

Database Security Best Practices

Adversaries can use a wide range of attack vectors to infiltrate your site, so it's also important to protect your site from them.

Let's take a look at a few topical database security techniques to help protect your databases from attacks. If you plan to develop your own processes and practices, these steps can serve as a basic database security plan to get you started.

Separate Database Servers and Web Servers

Storing your data on the same server as your website exposes your data to various attack vectors that target your site. Your database servers should be isolated from everything else to reduce these security risks. In case the web server is compromised and the database server is running on the same host, that attacker will have privileged access to your database.

It is also effective against zero-day vulnerabilities. Isolation strategies are one of the best ways to improve database security at the access level. Competitive isolation solutions combine this approach with database-level security such as public keys and encryption.

Use Web Application and Database Firewalls

Firewall is an additional and important protection part of your database and applications from database security threats. By default, the firewall does not allow access to traffic. It should also prevent your database from starting outgoing connections unless there is a special reason for it.

There are three main types of firewalls that are used to protect the network:

  • Firewall with packet filter
  • Status Tracking Packet Inspection (SPI)
  • Proxy Server Firewall

Make sure that your firewall is properly configured in such a way as to cover all security weaknesses. It is important to constantly update your firewalls, as this protects your site and database from new attacks.

Secure Database User Access

If you have a large organization, you should consider automating access control with password management or access control software. This will provide authorized users with a short-term password with the rights they need every time they need to access the database.

You should follow to ensure that as few people as possible have access to the database. Administrators should have only the minimum privileges they need to do their job, and only during the periods when they need access.

In particular, the following security measures are recommended:

  • Use strong passwords
  • Password hashes must be salted and stored encrypted
  • Accounts should be regularly checked and deactivated if employees move to other positions, leave the company, or they no longer need the same level of access.
  • Accounts should be blocked after several login attempts

Regularly Update Your Operating System and Patches

Using outdated software to maintain a database or even to run a website makes the threat of compromise real. It is important to regularly update database software with all security patches installed to protect against the latest vulnerabilities discovered.

Database security management software should only be used by trusted and trusted vendors and should be continually updated and patched as they are released.

Always stay on latest!

Audit and Monitoring Database Activity

Continuous monitoring increases your security and allows you to quickly identify attacks for prompt response. Effective monitoring should allow your team to determine when an account has been compromised, when a user performs suspicious actions and other non-default behavior.

In addition, set up escalation playbooks in case of potential attacks, so that your confidential data is even more secure.

Test Your Database Security

After you have created the database security infrastructure, you should test it for a real threat. Security audits and database penetration tests will help you understand the mindset of a cybercriminal and identify any vulnerabilities that you may have overlooked.

Penetration testers provide reports listing database and application vulnerabilities. It is important to quickly investigate and fix these vulnerabilities. Conduct a penetration test on your critical database system more than once a year.

Encrypt Data and Backups

You should also back up your database regularly and make sure that any backups are encrypted and stored separately from decryption keys. For example, you should not store encrypted backups along with the description keys in plain text. Regular backup of your system protects not only from adversaries, but also from other technical failures, such as problems with physical equipment.

Setting up a data encryption protocol reduces the risk of a successful data breach. This means that even if cybercriminals get hold of your data, this information will remain safe.


Vulners helps ensure that security risks are mitigated. With the largest database of information security, your applications and databases will be protected from the latest vulnerabilities. You will be the first to receive the latest cybersecurity news with new updates for your software.

In summary, the better your organization's cybersecurity is, the more likely you are to build long-term business relationships with your customers and consistently achieve your goals!


How important is database security?

Database security is an important part of a company's infrastructure protection strategy. The larger the amount of data being processed, the more critical it is to ensure protection.

What are the different aspects of database security?

Database security is a complex process that consists of tools, processes, and methodologies that provide security in a database environment.

Which database is best for security?

Any modern database can be successfully protected from possible damage, potential risks and cybercriminals. It all depends on the people, processes and practices.~~