The evolution of digital technology and the growth of the Internet have made life and work more efficient and convenient.
Information can be accessed with a few clicks of a mouse or by scrolling through and tapping a touch screen. Filing cabinets have gone the way of typewriters and fax machines.
Companies can organize and store large volumes of information in databases that are “in the cloud”.
Information stored in the database is important for business.
These are considered valuable assets. In the wrong hands, they can lead to the downfall of the business, personal and financial ruin of the client/ customer.
This is why database security is important. Criminal elements; people with malicious intent are targeting your data because they want to take your success away from you.
Thus, in as much as digital technology and the Internet have made life and work easier; they have likewise made risks higher for business and the consumer.
Threats On Database Security: Keeping It Real
Starting an online business is a great idea. Moving your back-office and administrative functions to online channels is a smart way of streamlining costs.
However, the risks of having your sensitive data stolen or compromised are much higher than a brick- and- mortar business.
In a physical location, thieves can break into your office or retail store and steal valuables, cash and sensitive documents.
Closed Circuit television (CCTV) can help you identify the perpetrators. A high-tech security system can derail their efforts.
You can be a victim of crime but the likelihood is not an everyday probability.
By comparison, threats on database security can happen every day and it is very difficult to pinpoint the perpetrators.
Cyber-criminals can strike at any time and from anywhere. In many cases, the business-owner does not know that he/she has been victimized. Valuable data and sensitive private information were already stolen.
Statistics On Database Security Breaches And Cyber-Attacks
In the United States, the cyber-attack on Equifax resulted in 145 million consumers having their personal information compromised.
Internet security firm Symantec published an eye-opening study in 2015 that revealed more than one million cyber-attacks happen every day.
The study disclosed that for the year 2014 alone, more than 317 million malware viruses and software were developed by cyber-criminals.
And if you think government agencies with all their resources have it easy, think again.
The United States State Department disclosed that the agency was defending itself from thousands of cyber-attacks every day in 2015.
Eventually, the State Department’s efforts fell apart as it became victim to an email phishing scheme in November 2015.
In Australia, the rate of cyber-attacks have been increasing annually that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the green light for more investments in cyber-security.
The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) recorded an estimated 114,000 cases of cyber-attacks since 2014 including 23,700 during the first half of 2017.
Small and medium scale businesses are easier targets for cyber-criminals. A 2015 report by McAfee showed that more than 50% of small businesses do not have data protection measures in place to safeguard customer information from malware attacks.
Overall, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimate database security breaches cost the global economy $300 Billion every year.
If you are not vigilant about database security, your business might just end up becoming statistical evidence on the reality of cyber-criminal activities.
The CIA Triad: 3 Basic Concepts Of Database Security
In order to have a better understanding of database security, you have to be familiar with its three key concepts otherwise known as the CIA Triad.
It may sound like a crime organization but it stands for three important considerations when designing a plan for database security. CIA stands for: Confidentiality, Integrity and Assurance.
When a database server is accessed by an unauthorized entity, its confidentiality becomes compromised.
A business that is engaged in retail will greatly value all information pertaining to its pricing, customers/ subscribers and suppliers.
If data on these categories are accessed illegally or stolen, the company would be in a vulnerable position.
Not only will the business’ trade secrets be exposed but even its end users will be at risk of having their personal and financial well-being threatened.
This is why database security starts with ensuring confidentiality of all information whether in-transit or in storage.
Encryption is a fundamental technique that is used to fortify inaccessibility of data.
With encryption, only authorized or designated personnel would be able to access or read the information. For everyone else, the data will be completely unreadable.
High-level security measures demand that data encryption is done on all information that is stored and in-transit.
This is especially true for e-commerce and financial services websites where users are required to provide confidential information such as credit card and social security numbers.
If the data that was illegally accessed was altered, it represents a loss in its integrity. A good example would be if health and medical records were altered. This could affect insurance health benefit claims of people listed in the database.
Businesses can improve data integrity by setting up UAC or User Access Controls. This is a system that identifies personnel who have been authorized to have access to the database.
A company could designate some employees to have limited access to a database so they can update personal information. In contrast, high-level managers would have access to information that is more confidential in nature.
Here are a few tips on how you can secure the integrity of your database:
- Change the password frequently and run tests on its security and integrity on random intervals.
- Delete all user accounts that are inactive. For example, if an authorized employee is no longer with company, his/her access to the database must be discontinued.
- Make sure every person who is given access uses a very strong password. To this regard, the company must prepare guidelines on how to create a password and have these strictly enforced at all times.
- Clearly define the parameters of each user’s access.
- If you decide to have more than one database administrator, make sure the roles and responsibility of each administrator is clearly defined.
Database assurance is the third important component of database security. You want to make sure that users who visit your website feel safe that the data they might share with you will be safe and secure.
Have you noticed that some URLs start with “https” while some have “http”? The “s” stands for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.
Websites that have URLs that start with “https” have acquired these certificates which ensure that all data in-transit are secured with encryption.
For would-be shoppers, they would feel more confident patronizing an online retailer that has SSL certificates. E-commerce giant Amazon and PayPal have SSL certificates and assure users they are transacting with legitimate businesses.
Hackers are hard at work every day because they know databases have many areas of vulnerability. What opens up websites to hacking?
Poor password management, failure to update current software programs, substandard database configuration and maintaining unused or under-utilized plug-ins are examples of areas of vulnerability.
Hackers are constantly finding ways to break into your database and these access points will make their work easier.
Keep in mind that database attacks have been increasing the past 5 years. The trend is expected to continue as more businesses and consumers depend on the Internet to meet their needs.
Hackers no longer hack to gain credibility. It has become an industry. Hackers get paid well for stealing and selling proprietary information. In the era of Big Data, access to information can be a game changer.
Over the last few years we have seen how a data breach can lead an enterprise to its downfall as well as change the outcome of the political process.
Investing in database security is one of the best ways you can ensure the protection and integrity of your business.