Guarding against database anti-forensics

Database hacking has gone mainstream and is becoming harder to detect

Database hacking has gone mainstream and is becoming harder to detect because of the increasingly sophisticated anti-forensic procedures hackers use to cover their tracks.

Knowing forensics inside and out, as well as the tricks hackers use to foil forensics, is essential for professionals responsible for protecting the integrity of corporate data.

Databases contain a high percentage of confidential data, yet many organizations lack the budget and management buy-in to implement protections. According to studies, 60% of organizations have experienced a breach in the past 12 months, 80% expect database attacks to increase and 40% on average fail security audits.

There are plenty of tools to help thwart attacks -- such as vulnerability management products that include vulnerability assessment and user monitoring functionality -- but the trick is to deploy comprehensive solutions that help in forensics and provide visibility into how attackers cover their tracks.

Common anti-forensics methodologies

Where database actions are traced by different logging mechanisms such as backup, trace, transaction and operating system logs, sophisticated attackers try to hide their activities by gaining database administrator privileges to manipulate those logs.

Some common ways attackers obtain administrator privileges include:

* Exploiting a vulnerability.

* Finding a valid login and password (by brute force, guessing, stealing or with the help of a trojan).

* Taking advantage of weak or missing access controls.

* Exploiting a vulnerability in an application or in the operating system.

Attackers interfere with logs using the following techniques:

* Disable logging. Some logging mechanisms can be disabled by administrators by just running a command in the database server. This is the easiest way to avoid some logging mechanisms.

* Intercept and modify logging mechanisms. On most database management systems (DBMS), it's possible to extend functionality by loading external libraries. These libraries have code that can be executed inside the database server process. As a result, the code will have unrestricted access to all database process memory and components, allowing an attacker to manipulate logs at will. The attacker will be able to modify database server memory to intercept and avoid logging, insert backdoors, hijack user sessions and so on.

* Impersonate other database users. Because some DBMS allow privileged users to execute commands under different user accounts, it's possible to impersonate any user. When logs are reviewed after an attack they will point to an innocent user and send forensic investigators after false leads.

* Abuse logging mechanism design. With some database servers it's possible to delete and/or overwrite logs. Some logging mechanisms are designed to reuse log space after certain conditions are met. Log space can also be reduced with specific commands, forcing the oldest log entries to be deleted and/or overwritten. Attackers can force these conditions or execute commands to delete and/or overwrite log entries.

Comprehensive user rights review capabilities will ensure you have appropriate access controls in place, security features enabled, security patches applied and strong password use enforced. By ensuring your databases are properly locked down, you can block an outside attacker's entry into your system or an insider's ability to escalate his privileges in a system he has legitimate access to.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hackingdatabase

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Cesar Cerrudo

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?