Tips for Improving MySQL Database Security

by Jun 18, 2021

MySQL Database security is an exercise that requires vigilance from database administrators (DBAs). 

Security should be an overriding concern of all information technology (IT) professionals these days. A glance at the news seemingly produces a daily litany of data breaches and ransomware attacks that can cripple a business and put sensitive information resources at risk. 

MySQL DBAs form an integral component of the overall security of an organization’s MySQL environment. They are front-line defenders who have a unique insight into the operation of their databases. This includes monitoring who has access to sensitive data and when that data is being used. 

Following are the top tips for improving MySQL Database Security … 

MySQL Database Security

Trust Nobody; Threats Are Everywhere

Data is one of the most valuable assets for modern organizations. Because of this,  databases containing more important, valuable, or sensitive information are often targeted specifically by cybercriminals. Many MySQL databases are prime targets for such an attack.

The first tip for MySQL DBAs to improve security is to apply the same diligence in protecting their databases from external and internal threats. While at one time the main danger to enterprise databases was from external malicious actors, internal data breaches are becoming significantly more common. This rise in insider threats may simply be due to the increased value of a company’s data or be a reflection of a deeper societal problem. From the perspective of an IT security team, the distinction is irrelevant. 

An attack by an insider can be as, if not more, damaging than one perpetrated by random hackers. Employees, contractors, and trusted business sources can more easily identify sensitive systems and high-value targets than even the most motivated outsiders. Individuals with elevated privileges can run rampant through databases and compromise personal customer and employee information. In some cases, insiders can be responsible for long-term intrusions that can be difficult to detect.

The Zero Trust Security Model

Fortunately, security against internal threats can be addressed and strengthened by implementing the Zero Trust Security Model. This model is a set of design principles combined with a cybersecurity and system management strategy that acknowledges that threats exist inside and outside of enterprise network boundaries. The model focuses on answering the questions of who, what, when, where, and how as they apply to accessing sensitive data assets.

The Zero Trust Security Model is built on the following three core principles:

  • Verify explicitly – All access to sensitive data needs to be authenticated and authorized using multiple dynamic and static attributes.
  • Use least privileged access – Limit user access using just-in-time and just-enough-access policies and data protection to secure systems and productivity. 
  • Assume breach – Defend resources assuming that breach has already occurred. Deny access by default and continuously monitor all configuration changes, resource accesses, and network traffic for suspicious activity.

Implementing Zero Trust enables all decisions revolving around data usage to be made based on the concept of least privileged access. To address the complex threat environment faced by modern organizations, Zero Trust requires:

  • Coordinated and aggressive system monitoring, system management, and defensive operations capabilities;
  • Assuming all network traffic and requests for sensitive information may be malicious;
  • Assuming all devices and infrastructure components may be compromised;
  • Understanding that there is risk involved in all access to critical resources.

It may seem that implementing a Zero Trust mindset borders on paranoia, but in this case, DBAs cannot be too careful regarding the security of their databases. The threats are real and can manifest themselves in many unexpected ways. 

Monitor Everything You Can

The second tip for improving the security of MySQL databases is to monitor everything possible. DBAs must have data that provides insight into who is using a database and accessing sensitive information. Monitoring is an essential part of implementing the Zero Trust Security Model and can be instrumental in identifying unusual or suspicious activity occurring on MySQL database servers. 

There are many things to monitor in a MySQL environment that may indicate potential security issues. An obvious one is to identify attempts to access sensitive data by unauthorized users. Queries behaving abnormally could be another sign that something is amiss. Unexplained attempts to transfer data out from the database server might be the result of infection with cryptomining malware

Being cryptomined in itself does not directly put data resources at risk, as the miners want to use system resources. It does indicate your defenses have been penetrated which could lead to further infection down the road. Cryptomining can also cause performance issues, so it’s best to remove the offenders as soon as possible.

DBAs need the ability to configure informative alerts for their unique MySQL databases and environments. Through a combination of real-time alerting and the analysis of historical monitoring data, teams can identify security issues and rapidly address them to ensure the safety of enterprise data resources. 

A Versatile and Robust Monitoring Tool

SQL Diagnostic Manager for MySQL provides all the functionality required by DBAs to monitor who is accessing their MySQL databases and the sensitive information stored in them. The tool works seamlessly with on-premises MySQL instances as well as cloud-hosted and cloud-managed MySQL databases. It allows teams to monitor hybrid environments with a single tool that can create custom charts and dashboards to highlight the most relevant information. 

The capabilities of SQL Diagnostic Manager for MySQL fit perfectly with the Zero Trust Security Model’s requirement for robust and reliable monitoring. Adding it to their software toolbox gives MySQL database teams a reliable tool for improving the security of their systems. It also is a great performance monitoring tool that will alert based on best practices and user-defined thresholds.

Try SQL Diagnostic Manager for MySQL for free!