Mr. Cranky Faces Reality

By Adrian Lane

There are some mornings I should not be allowed to look at the Internet. Those days when I think someone peed in my cornflakes. The mornings when every single media release, blog post, and news item, looks like total BS. I think maybe they are just struggling for news during the holiday season, or maybe I am just unsually snarky. I don’t know. Today was one of those days. I was combing through my feed reader and ran across Brian Prince’s article, Database Security Reminder: Don’t Let Your Guard Down.

The gist is that if you move your database into the cloud you could be hacked, especially if you don’t patch the database.

Uh, come again?

Brian’s point is that if you don’t have a firewall to protect against port scanning you help hackers locate databases. And if you set Oracle to allow unlimited password attempts, your accounts can be brute-forced. And if you expose an unpatched version of Oracle to the Internet, vulnerabilities can be exploited.

Now I am annoyed.

Was this supposed to be news because the database was running on Amazon’s EC2, and that’s cloud, so it must be newsworthy? Was this a subtle way of telling us that the database vulnerability assessment and activity monitoring vendors are still important and relevant in the cloudy world? Was there a message in there about the quality of Amazon’s firewall, such that databases can be located by port scans? Or perhaps a veiled criticism that Amazon’s outbound monitoring failed to detect suspicious activity? I figure most companies by now have gotten the memo that databases get hacked. And they know you need to correctly configure and patch them prior to deployment. So how is this different than the database within your own IT data center, and why is this reminder newsworthy?

Turns out it is. I continue to read more and more news, and see database hack after database hack after database hack. And that is right on the heels of the Gawker/Lifehacker/Gizmodo screwup. I have lost count of the other hospitals, universities, and Silverpop customers in the last month who are victims of database breaches. Okay, I concede Brian has a point. Maybe a reminder to get the basics right is worthy of a holiday post because there are plenty of companies still messing this up. I was thinking this was pure hyperbole and telling us stuff we already know. Apparently I was wrong. I am calm now, though still depressed. Thanks for sharing, Brian. I think I’ll go back to bed.

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Hi Adrian,

To me, this was interesting because of how fast the database was discovered and hacked. Just tells me that there are automatic tools out there busily port-scanning EC2 instances.

The simple truth is that you should never expose your database directly to the internet, no matter if it’s running on the cloud, in a hosted environment or in your own data center. Even fully patched databases can be hacked (and without too much effort). Many 0day attacks out there…

By Slavik Markovich

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