Select Page

A row of servers secured in a dark location as per standard database security procedures.

What Are Database Security Procedures?

Database Security

IBM outlines database security to be the measures that uphold the integrity, availability, and especially confidentiality of data, database infrastructure, applications associated with databases, database servers, and networks.

Database Security Procedures

Database security procedures are written guides for an IT team and network users to follow both in everyday activities and in response to incidents. Database security procedures will include preventative measures, detective measures, and response plans. They explain automated procedures like threat detection, threat escalation responses, and user authentication, in addition to manual procedures like auditing, password management, and determining access limitations. Database security procedures should be one part of your larger cybersecurity documentation and security documentation. While database security has its own nuances, general security procedure best practices are important to consider as well when designing your database security procedures.

Since the advent of digital databases, our technology has grown to accommodate larger, more varied collections of data. Before discussing how to update your database security procedures for the modern era, let’s take a look at an early foundation of database technology and security.

Database Development of Days Past

Relational Databases

One of the breakthroughs of database technology was the relational database. Invented in 1970 by Dr. Edgar Frank Codd at IBM, relational databases are a collection of relations, or two-dimensional tables containing rows and columns similar to an Excel sheet, that are connected via a foreign key.

The development of relationship database technology was a crucial step in making information easier to store, recall, and customize. Relational database technology links data sets to one another, reduces redundancy, and allows users to create unique data sets to their own specifications. They are able to store large amounts of data and make data retrieval simple. Its ease of use made it the backbone of many applications.

Relational Database Security

Relational databases also force data integrity and database security. For example, let’s say you have a database and in one area you are storing “race.” The possible races are Black, White, Asian, South Asian, etc. Your database will have a lookup table with all your possible race codes. Then, a foreign key would link these race codes to your main table. The main table would only accept the race codes that were in your race lookup table as opposed to any other codes.

This system essentially protects data from being contaminated by illegitimate data. Relational database management systems usually have limit access authorization and allow for easy backup and data recovery as well.

Relational Databases in Action

One example of a relational database technology in use is SQL, a program created by a company called Oracle. Relational databases in can be accessed and modified by executing structured query language (SQL) statements. Java users use SQL to run codes on schema, which creates tables depicting different information sets. Additionally, SQL can be used to create an original database using existing databases available through the program.

How to Update Your Database Security Procedures

Since database technology has grown, businesses and organizations have used increasingly complex relational and non-relational databases. New security threats have emerged, and database security technology has risen to the challenge. It now falls on businesses and organizations to incorporate current technologies and methods into their database security procedures. Below are a few ways to start.

Adapt to AI

AI has “has been dubbed a nuclear threat to cybersecurity.” AI like ChatGPT is allowing hackers to create attacks and penetrate security systems at a rate never seen before. In fact, recently ChatGPT itself suffered a breach in security in March 2023. It, like other programs using open-source code, are particularly likely to contain vulnerabilities. However, AI is becoming a tool to detect the very threats it creates.

Unless the tech industry suddenly distances itself from AI, database procedures will probably adopt more AI features to combat AI-assisted attackers. AI threats are only becoming more multifaceted and interconnected. The cybersecurity industry has been cornered: only AI-assisted security systems can match complex, quickly-evolving AI-assisted cyber attacks.

The IEEE Computer Society provides four examples of how to use AI to your advantage. Firstly, AI can analyze your security system and predict your vulnerabilities. Then, an AI-assisted security system can detect new threats faster than older cybersecurity systems because it stays up to date on malware evolution. An AI security system collects data from the latest information available online on malware developments and incorporates that into its security system, whereas a programmer would have to update old software to recognize new types of cyber attacks.

AI-assisted security systems also excel at identifying harmful bots. The AI will compare a suspicious bot to other known automated entities like malicious spam bots and harmless search engine crawlers and determine whether the bot poses a security risk.

Furthermore, AI offers an alternative to traditional signature-based endpoint security. A signature is the distinct system of patterns that identify a certain malware. A signature-based security system will be able to identify and respond to known malware signatures, but needs to be updated to include new, lesser-known malware signatures. A signature-based security system is comparable to a human immune system; if the body recognizes viruses and other foreign bodies, it will launch an immune response. If the body hasn’t seen a particular threat before, it won’t.

An AI-assisted security system, on the other hand, learns what a device — or body, if we continue the metaphor — acts like under normal, healthy circumstances. If anything out of the ordinary occurs, the security system can launch a response. Thus, AI-assisted security systems provide a wider range of endpoint protection.

Employ a Zero Trust Framework

Again, cyber attacks are only getting more advanced and varied. Many cybersecurity experts are floating the Zero Trust security model. It takes a mountain of manpower, organization, and money to properly implement the model, but as cybersecurity systems because more sophisticated, more and more business are nearing the goal.

Information Security Buzz’s co-founder and CSO, Henry Harrison, explains that as remote work has skyrocketed, so did the need to provide extra protection to business networks. It has become harder and harder to trust or track that all network users are good actors — the “enterprise network boundary is […] expanded and blurred.”

Enter the Zero Trust security model. Zero Trust security systems use a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach. Every entity accessing a network is indiscriminately treated like a security threat. A Zero Trust system demands rigorous authentication procedures like multi-factor identification and biometric identification for people and information from outside and inside a business’ network.

User access is limited to protect data from compromised internal accounts. To establish a limited-access framework, a business must conduct a thorough evaluation of how their most sensitive data is stored and accessed, and then cut out unnecessary permissions.

The bulk of the Zero Trust model is monitoring and documentation of network activity. While an expansive, accurate monitoring and documentation is difficult to create, it ensures the highest level of security possible. Security attacks occur at all levels of communications, so it’s important to have security measures at every level.

As businesses steadily convert their cybersecurity systems to the Zero Trust model, they have revealed pitfalls in the system. Cybersecurity Dive emphasizes that businesses are putting too much of the onus on technology itself to protect data. To properly implement Zero Trust, employees and leadership need to develop a mindset that complements the framework. The transition from tradition to Zero Trust system is long and multifaceted, so the company must be prepared for some experimentation and put in the work to find the best solutions for their business.

Use a Database Security Best Practices Checklist

Today’s Best Practices:

  1. Don’t neglect the physical security of your database servers: Depending on the level of your operation, you may be able to implement locks, alarms, security staff, to protect your servers. You can also store your servers in multiple locations so that if one is compromised, not all your data is jeopardized.
  2. Use multiple servers: You website server and your database server, for example, should be kept separate. Again, this ensures that if one server is compromised, the other will remain safe.
  3. Use an HTTPS proxy server and a firewall: a proxy server is a buffer for your real database server; cyber attackers will only be able to obtain the IP address of the proxy server instead of the database server. A proxy server assesses traffic before it reaches your database server so prevents suspicious activity from breaching your system. A firewall, similarly, will monitor network traffic and prevent bad actors from accessing your databases based on the security protocols that dictate it. Be sure to use a firewall that is specifically designed to protect databases.
  4. Database security: Now that your server is protected, enact security measures for your databases themselves. Separate your data by level of sensitivity. Encrypt your data. Weed out unnecessary functions in your database.
  5. Limit database access: After cleaning up your database, weed out as much of the access points to your database as you can. This includes, users, applications, and APIs. Network users should have access privileges only when strictly necessary, and their access should be limited to only the necessary fields for the necessary time periods. To enforce this principle, employ the most secure user authentication methods, like biometrics and multi-factor authentication.
  6. Conduct proper maintenance: You’ve set up your protections, but the work is not over. Audit your databases regularly to track access, attempted logins, accounts, and data tampering. Your data security team should also test and update your security systems. Outdated software can become points of vulnerability.
  7. Backup your databases: The evergreen 3, 2, 1 Backup Rule suggests to store three copies of your data in two types of media, and to store one copy offsite.
  8. Give training to end-users: To reduce human error, train your employees and network users before they giving them access to your data.

For some other basic tips, IBM offers plenty of beginner-friendly resources:

Write Your New Database Security Procedure Today

Essential Data has technical writers with cybersecurity and IT backgrounds. If your company uses databases and are looking to be more secure, look no further than working with the talented technical writers at Essential Data in order to create database security procedure documentation.

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or to get started.