Oracle Security: The Big Picture

Tuesday Jan 15th 2008 by DatabaseJournal.com Staff

This book will help the DBA to assess their current level of risk as well as their existing security posture. It will then provide practical, applicable knowledge to appropriately secure the Oracle database.

Practical Oracle Security
By Josh Shaul, Aaron Ingram
Published by Elsevier
ISBN10: 1-59749-198-5
Published: Nov. 12, 2007
Dimensions 7 1/2 X 9 1/4 in
Pages: 288
Buy this book

Your Unauthorized Guide to Relational Database Security

This book will help the DBA to assess their current level of risk as well as their existing security posture. It will then provide practical, applicable knowledge to appropriately secure the Oracle database.

Chapter 1

Solutions in this Chapter:

  • A Brief History of Security Features in Oracle
  • The Regulatory Environment Driving Database Security
  • Major Data Theft Incidents
  • A Step-by-step Approach to Securing Oracle


A senior database manager at one of the world’s largest banks once told me that the best way to secure Oracle is to unplug it from the wall…and he is probably right. In fact, this holds true for nearly every networked application. Unfortunately, for many of us turning off the database is not an option; we must find another way to secure our systems. New technologies and services drive revenue for businesses, particularly those that provide a tailored experience to customers. These systems frequently require storing, processing, and offering access to personal information. No different are the systems that store corporate secrets or financial information. Much of the data they store is extremely sensitive, but it all needs to be readily and easily accessible nonetheless. This creates a significant data security challenge, one we will address in detail throughout this volume.

This book is designed to help you establish a practical security program for Oracle databases. We will create a means for measuring and assessing the security of your databases, and give you tools to create a security scorecard for each of your Oracle databases. This is not a Database Administrator (DBA) handbook—far from it. Instead, we are writing to the entire database security community, which includes DBAs, but also includes Information Technology (IT) security staff, auditors, and even the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

Oracle is by far the most widely deployed database in the world. It is a central component of critical systems across nearly every major industry that thrives today. In the financial, medical, telecom, infrastructure, government, and even the military, the databases and the data within them are the business. Over the last several years, databases have become a frequent target of cyber attacks. At first, these attacks were primarily intended to cause disruptions in business and gain notoriety among the hacker community. This has changed dramatically with database attacks increasingly focused on extracting the sensitive and valuable information from systems in an attempt at monetary gains by the attacker. Stealing personal information for use in identity theft, stealing credit card numbers to make purchases at will, stealing corporate secrets to take back the competitors edge, these are today’s drivers behind attacks on databases. Because of Oracle’s dominance in the marketplace, many of these attacks have been focused on Oracle systems. Oracle has been an unwilling conspirator in these attacks, having built a system riddled with vulnerabilities for the attackers to go after. At the same time, Oracle has built the most complete suite of security features in any commercial database. This book will show you how to properly use these features to ensure your databases remain available and secure in a diverse and rapidly changing environment.

A Brief History of Security Features in Oracle

The Oracle database was born out of a US intelligence community project, called Project Oracle, run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the initial customer, security was a serious concern from day one. If you go back to the initial release of Oracle from 1979 (actually dubbed version 2) the beginnings of today’s security system were already present. Those were the days when databases were housed in physically protected secure rooms, with no outside or network access. At the time, there was no means to access Oracle without being on the server itself. The concern about an outside attacker breaching the system was hardly even considered; however, the threat from an insider was a present concern. It is quite likely that this threat brought about some components of the often confusing and misleading error message system that remains in use today. For example, try selecting from a table or view that exists in Oracle that you do not have permissions to access. Oracle will respond with the following:

C:\>sqlplus scott/tiger

SQL*Plus: Release - Production on Sat Sep 15 13:18:52 2007
Copyright (c) 1982, 2005, Oracle.  All rights reserved.

Connected to:
Oracle Database 10g Enterprise Edition Release - Production
With the Partitioning, OLAP and Data Mining options

SQL> select * from sys.user$;
select * from sys.user$;
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-00942: table or view does not exist

Why tell the user that the object they requested does not exist, rather then provide a message telling them they do not have the proper permissions? It’s simple. If a user does not have rights on an object, that user has no reason to know that the object exists. Handing out any more information than is absolutely necessary has never been good for security, regardless of what is being secured.

Passwords were present in version 2 as well, but the password management system was extremely basic. Overall, there was a minimal need for security when Oracle first got started, but underpinnings were put in place. As the technology world began to change, and the protections offered by physically securing the servers were no longer sufficient, Oracle changed as well and began to implement a complex array of increasingly sophisticated security features.

Privilege Controls

At first, controls on user rights and privileges were nearly non-existent. Within a few years, Oracle introduced the concept of roles. Three roles were rigidly defined: CONNECT, RESOURCE, and DBA. Users could be assigned roles, but these roles could not be modified, nor could custom roles be created. All privileges were assigned directly to the roles, never to users. This continued until version 6 of the database was released, when Oracle introduced the capability to grant privileges to users. This was a significant improvement in the security system, allowing administrators to have much more granular control in giving out access to data on an as-needed basis. The CONNECT, RESOURCE, and DBA roles remained statically defined until version 7 of Oracle was released and the concept of user-defined roles was introduced. User-defined roles revolutionized the privilege control system in Oracle, allowing for efficient and flexible management of permissions by allowing them to be grouped together and assigned or removed in bulk. The Oracle7 role system remains in use today and will likely not be changed with the future release of Oracle11g. We’ll cover using roles and privileges in detail in Chapter 4.

One more major development in the privilege control system came in Oracle8i: invoker rights procedures. Stored procedures have been around for quite some time, and were commonly used as they are today, to group complex functionality into a single procedure and then offer easy access through a simple interface. For a long time, all procedures were run with definer rights. This means that when a procedure is called, it runs at the privilege level of the definer (the user who owns the procedure), often the DBA. Invoker rights procedures are different. They run at the privilege level of the invoker (the user who ran the procedure). This offers flexibility to database developers who can now create procedures that access data and database functions without the worry of a user getting access to data they should never see.


Until version 5 of the database, Oracle offered no networking features. Database access was only permitted by directly connecting from the host operating system (OS). This required users to be able to access the server on which Oracle ran, making it impossible to implement any kind of distributed computing system. In version 5, SQL*Net 1.0 was introduced and with it came a dramatic change in how Oracle was used and how it was secured. It was no longer necessary to access the host OS to log in to the database; all that was needed was a network connection and some client software and the database could be accessed remotely. The introduction of SQL*Net had an important side effect. Users could now interact directly and exclusively with Oracle’s immature user authentication system and could completely bypass the mature authentication features offered by the database host OS.

Oracle Advanced Networking Option

The Oracle Advanced Networking Option (ANO) was released with version 7.3 of the database in 1996. ANO was the first Oracle product to offer strong security for a networked database; its two primary features were network security and single sign-on.

Network Security

In Oracle’s terms, network security means both confidentiality and integrity protection. The confidentiality part ensures that nobody can read the data as it crosses the network, while the integrity protection part ensures that nobody can change the data as it moves. Confidentiality was implemented using the symmetric key encryption algorithms Ron’s Code 4 (RC4) and Data Encryption Standard (DES). The integrity protection was implemented with a cryptographic hash or message digest function called Message Digest 5 (MD5). Oracle chose strong algorithms and made attacks against the data as it traverses the network very difficult to execute.


ANO was released in 1996 during the dark days when the US government held tightly to export controls on encryption products. This forced Oracle to offer two versions of ANO, one for US domestic use only and another for export. The export version was limited to the use of 40-bit encryption keys for both RC4 and DES, significantly watering down the strength of each encryption algorithm. Domestic versions used 56-bit DES and allowed for up to 128-bit RC4. In the years since, these export controls have been largely removed and Oracle now offers only one version of the network security product, now called the Advanced Security Option.

Single Sign-on

In an attempt to simplify password management for organizations, Oracle began to integrate with third-party providers of single sign-on (SSO) authentication systems. The intention was to integrate Oracle databases into enterprise SSO systems, allowing users to set a single strong password in one place, and then use the same account to access all systems. This allowed users to remember only one password, and it allowed administrators to force the use of strong passwords on their users. Furthermore, SSO makes user provisioning and password management simple, as all credentials are managed centrally. In the initial release, Oracle offered support for a number of SSO systems, including Kerberos, CyberSAFE, SecurID, Biometric, and DCE GSSAPI.

The i in Oracle8i

Oracle ushered in the Internet era with the release of Oracle8i in early 1999. Targeted at the eCommerce marketplace in the heat of the .com boom, Oracle had the right product at the right time to claim an enormous share of the online retail market. Touted as a platform for developing Internet applications, Oracle8i was built to face the Internet and store sensitive data. This represented a shift in how and where databases were used. Hackers started finding databases directly accessible from the Internet. Oracle hacking went mainstream.

Network security continued to be a strong suit for Oracle. They renamed SQL*Net as Net8 and renamed the Advanced Networking Option to Oracle Advanced Security (OAS). Major enhancements were made to both the network security and single sign-on components of OAS. Oracle added support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) (network authentication, encryption, and integrity protection) and Remote Authentication Dial-in User Service (RADIUS) (centralized user authentication). Both are standards-based systems that had been publicly reviewed, offering assurance to companies who didn’t want to rely on Oracle alone to attest to the effectiveness of their security protocols. In the releases since 8i, Oracle has continued to offer enhancements and upgrades to the OAS product.


Oracle has offered auditing features in the database since very early on. Capabilities were provided to audit log-ins, object access, and database actions (defined as anything that makes a change to a database object, such as CREATE TABLE or ALTER DATABASE). Each event would be captured and labeled as successful or failed. Early versions of Oracle auditing were somewhat limited. Database actions could only be audited by role (CONNECT, RESOURCE, and DBA), not by individual user. SYSDBA activities could not be audited at all. Audit data was stored inside the database in the SYS.AUD$ table, and needed to be periodically truncated by the DBA. However, Oracle has supported auditing of access to SYS.AUD$ from the beginning.

With the Oracle7 release, database triggers were introduced. This new functionality was useful in many areas, audit in particular. The built-in Oracle auditing system records only those events that have occurred; it does not record before and after values for data changes. Triggers could be used to do just that, triggering on an update or delete to capture the old value before replacing or removing it. While a trigger-based audit system had to be implemented manually, it was a useful and powerful addition to the native auditing capabilities of the database.

Oracle7 also brought about the capability to write audit data directly to a flat file instead of into the database. This provided administrators with needed flexibility and allowed for tighter access controls on the audit data. The restrictions on database action auditing were lifted, allowing auditing by an individual user instead of by role.

Oracle8 came with its own set of improvements to the audit system. Things got much more granular with the capability to enable auditing at the object, schema, and system level. Oracle also added several views to allow for simpler review and analysis of the stored audit data.

Fine Grained Auditing

Fine Grained Auditing (FGA) was first introduced with Oracle9i. A major improvement in Oracle’s auditing capability, the first release of FGA focused on auditing of SELECT statements. Previously, Oracle auditing could record that a user had read from a table or view with a SELECT statement. While it was possible to know that a SELECT statement was issued and who issued it, it was not possible to determine what data was selected. FGA was designed to collect this information. Each event logged by FGA detailed the user, date/time, schema, table, columns accessed, the exact SQL statement issued including bind variables, and a system change number. This was a level of detail never before seen in a database auditing system, allowing for complete recreation of each audited event. By logging the exact SQL statement executed and the system change number, it was possible to determine exactly what data had been returned by the query. A DBA could use a flashback query to effectively restore the database to the point in time when the query was first executed and then run it again. The results would be the same, proving what data had been read from the system.

Oracle took this a step further by allowing administrators to audit access to individual rows by evaluating the row against a set of conditions supplied when auditing was configured. This allowed for auditing access to sensitive data only. The DVA could set up a column to indicate sensitivity, and then configure the audit system to capture access only to the rows labeled sensitive. This powerful feature had only one major shortcoming; it worked for SELECT only. There was no granular auditing of the Data Manipulation Language (DML) commands INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE.

With the release of Oracle10g came another round of major improvements to the built-in auditing systems. FGA was enhanced with the capability to audit DML statements, providing the same level of detail for INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements as had previously been supplied only for SELECT. The improvements in 10g were not limited to FGA, in fact, the entire audit system was overhauled to make all audit capabilities more granular and FGA-like. By setting the audit_trail parameter to db_extended, standard Oracle audit will capture both the exact SQL text executed, along with the values for any bind variables used for any query run against the database. Oracle DBAs now have a powerful mechanism to track exactly what their users are doing in the database.

Password Management

Oracle has included its own authentication and password management system since the very beginning. At first, the system was barebones. Each user got a password; the password was assigned and set by the DBA. Users had no means to change their own password, and Oracle had no automated controls for password management. Passwords never expired, never needed to be changed, and could be as simple or as complex as the DBA chose. Initially, the problem with this system was password distribution. Since the DBA had to set each user’s password, they would also have to distribute the password to each user. This could be a challenge in a large organization with dozens or even hundreds of database users. Hand written notes, phone calls, and personal visits were commonly used to distribute the passwords, but that took time and users had to wait their turn to get their new password before being allowed into the database. At the time, it was not entirely uncommon for a DBA to simply give each user the same password. This made it easy to distribute the passwords, but created new security nightmares. Anyone with access could essentially log in with anybody else’s account and privilege level. Things needed to change.

Before long, Oracle gave users the ability to alter their own password. This was a big improvement. The distribution problem was almost solved. DBAs still needed to set each user’s initial password, and the same problems apply to distributing those initial passwords. However, the scope of the issue was drastically reduced. DBAs would instruct each user to change their initial password the first time they logged in to the database. They could even use the auditing system to ensure that a password change had been made. However, Oracle’s password controls were still well behind those offered by the popular OSes of the time, which started to become a legitimate concern when Oracle databases began to accept connections from across the network.


True password management features were first offered in the database in Oracle8, with a system called “Profiles.” Profiles provide a means for setting controls on passwords, and then applying those controls to users in groups (in a manner very similar to how roles allow permissions to be managed in groups). DBAs could create custom profiles for each group of users, with controls tailored to each group’s needs. A DEFAULT profile was provided as a catchall. Any users not explicitly assigned to a profile would be assigned the DEFAULT profile, ensuring that the password management features apply to everyone. This profile system remains in use today and has been largely unchanged since its initial release. Oracle now had password management on par with most operating systems.

  • FAILED_LOGIN_ATTEMPTS This feature, often referred to as “account lockout,” is designed to effectively thwart any password guessing attempts against the database. Without this control in place, an attacker can literally spend eternity attempting to break into Oracle by repeatedly guessing passwords and attempting to log in. No matter how strong or complex the passwords, given enough time, an attacker could “brute-force” the system and gain access. The account lockout feature prevents this attack by enforcing a threshold of failed login attempts before an account is disabled or locked, meaning it is no longer permitted access to the database, even if the correct password is supplied. By setting this parameter to a reasonable value, 5 for example, DBAs can ensure that brute-force password-guessing attempts will almost always fail, while giving users a few opportunities to make a mistake typing in their password before their account is locked. Once an account has been locked, a DBA must manually unlock it, unless the database is configured to do so automatically.

  • PASSWORD_LIFE_TIME Even the strongest passwords need to be changed periodically, and relying on the DBA to remember when that time comes for each user leaves a big opportunity for forgetfulness. The PASSWORD_LIFE_TIME setting enforces password changes automatically after the lifetime, set in number of days, has expired. Once a user’s password life time has passed, the database forces the user to change their password on the next login, denying access to the database until the password has been changed. Alternately, a DBA can set a grace period after a user’s password has expired, during which the password will still work to gain access to the database. However, a warning message will be displayed, informing the user that their password has expired and must be changed soon.

  • PASSWORD_REUSE_TIME In order to prevent users from trying to trick the password management system into letting them keep their existing password once it has expired, Oracle tracks password history and can enforce a minimum length of time before a password can be reused. Without this feature, when a user’s password expires, they could easily change the password to some new value, allowing the database to log them in, then change the password right back to the old value. The password reuse time setting enforces a number of days before a password can be reused. This value can be set to UNLIMITED to ensure that a user can never use the same password twice.

  • PASSWORD_REUSE_MAX Similar to PASSWORD_REUSE_TIME, the reuse max value controls how many times a user can reuse the same password before it is permanently banned.

  • PASSWORD_LOCK_TIME As mentioned earlier, Oracle can be configured to automatically unlock accounts that were locked by the FAILED_LOGIN_ATTEMPTS control. The password lock time controls if and when those accounts are automatically unlocked. This parameter is configured with a number of days for automatic unlock, or set to UNLIMITED to force the DBA to unlock accounts manually.

  • PASSWORD_GRACE_TIME: Once a user’s password life time has expired, they may be given a grace period during which they are asked, but not forced, to change their password. The duration of this grace period is controlled by the PASSWORD_GRACE_TIME parameter, set in days. Once the grace period has expired, a user must change their password in order to successfully log in to the database.

  • PASSWORD_VERIFY_FUNCTION Probably the most powerful and flexible of all password management features is the PASSWORD_VERIFY_FUNCTION. This setting points Oracle to a user-defined function, typically written in C, that can enforce any complexity rules desired on a new password. Want to enforce a minimum length? Require users to include a digit? Special character? The password verify function can be as simple or complex as desired, the only limitation is your programming ability. Oracle comes with a default password verify function which enforces several controls. We will cover the password verify function in detail in Chapter 8.

Data Compartmentalization

In the database world, compartmentalization of data is something that is uniquely offered by Oracle. The concept involves classifying data elements, and then controlling access to those elements based on the classification and a user’s access or security level. By assigning a security level and compartment to each row of data in the database, access can be tightly controlled on a row-by-row basis, even when permissions have been granted on the entire table. When queries are issued, the system compares the security level and compartments on the data being accessed with the security authorizations of the user executing the query. Only the rows that match the user’s authorizations are accessible, enforcing mandatory access control.

Trusted Oracle7

Data compartmentalization features first appeared in an add-on product to Oracle7, called Trusted Oracle7, primarily driven by Oracle’s clientele in the US military. Based on the Bell-LaPadula security model, Trusted Oracle7 came pre-configured with three security levels: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. By combining these levels with a set of compartments, say one for each project that uses the database, it was possible to create a hierarchical set of controls that limited each user to accessing only the data from their project(s) at their security level. At the top of the hierarchy, users could see data from any compartment with any security level. At the bottom, a user could be restricted to seeing only Confidential data (not Secret or Top Secret) for their one compartment (or project).

Trusted Oracle7 offered some significant benefits, but came with a significant amount of baggage, as the complexity of configuring and implementing the system could be quite daunting, particularly in a system hosting a dozen or more projects with millions of rows of data stored in the database. The system was deployed in some military and even a few commercial applications, but it was widely viewed as too burdensome and complex for broad market acceptance. Even after enhancing the product to allow for the utilization of user-defined roles to define compartments, the commercial world continued not to accept the product, and eventually it was redesigned and renamed.


The Bell-LaPadula model was invented by David Elliot Bell and Len LaPadula in 1973, in an effort to define a multi-level security policy for the US Department of Defense. The model defines a set of security labels, ranging from Top Secret down to Unclassified (or Public) that can be used to enforce controls on access to data. Bell-LaPadula is defined as a state machine with a clearly defined set of states and functions to transition from one state to the next. When implemented properly, a system can be proven to satisfy its security design requirements.

Beyond basic access controls, Bell-LaPadula enforces two main rules, called the simple security property and the *-property. The simple security property ensures that a user cannot read data that is classified above their security level (no read up). This means that a user assigned the Secret classification can read both Secret and Confidential data, but cannot read anything labeled Top Secret. The *-property (read as star-policy) ensures that a user cannot write data that is classified below their security level (no write down). A user with the Secret classification can write Secret and Top Secret data, but cannot input any data that is classified as Confidential. A modification to the *-property, called the strong *-property restricts users to writing data at their own level only, never above or below.

Virtual Private Database

While Trusted Oracle7 proved too rigid and difficult to implement, it provided a feature that the market clearly desired: a mechanism to allow multiple users within the same schema to see only the data that applied to them. Consider an online retail system, where customers can log in and view the status of their pending orders. It’s likely that the orders for all customers are stored in the same table and it’s important that each user cannot view the orders that belong to others. Some means of access control is required. Before the release of Virtual Private Database (VPD), organizations generally implemented this access control in the application. A simple approach was taken. Construct a query that includes a WHERE clause that ensures only the current user’s data is returned. This works great until the user finds a way to connect to the database directly, then all bets are off. Once connected directly, there is nothing to limit the data that a user can see. If they have rights on the Orders table, they have rights on all of the data in that table. VPD was introduced to eliminate this concern and enforce security within the database, so that no matter what application is used to connect, each user can only see their data.

VPD uses a simple mechanism to enforce this access control. By transparently appending a WHERE clause to every query a user runs, VPD can effectively limit access to data by matching each user to a set of labels stored with the data. Users are granted access to data with specified labels, the VPD is configured, and then Oracle does the rest.

Oracle Label Security

With the release of Oracle8i came the new version of Trusted Oracle7, now dubbed “Oracle Label Security.” Based on the same classification levels as were used in Trusted Oracle7, Oracle Label Security was essentially a pre-configured VPD for military applications. Oracle Label Security came with several innovations, particularly around the capability to create custom configurations with user-defined labels and compartments. The tool also came with an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for configuration called “Oracle Policy Manager.” The Policy Manager product allowed DBAs to set up policies, define labels and their functions, and control user authorization. Once the set up is complete, Oracle will create a VPD designed to enforce the desired policies and authorizations.

Label Security can be applied at either the schema or individual table level, offering complete flexibility. Most applications require only a small percentage of the data they store to be secured by Label, by allowing Label Security to be implemented on the few tables that require it. Configuration and management of the database is vastly simplified over what was offered in Trusted Oracle7. Organizations now had a set of powerful tools to create a highly compartmentalized database, with effective access controls in place to ensure that users can only access the data they need to get their job done.

Oracle10g and Beyond

Oracle10g represents the state-of-the-art in database security. With more effective security features packed into the product than ever before, 10g and the upcoming Oracle11g offer an unprecedented level of control over who can get into your database and what they can access while they are there, while ensuring that an audit trail is kept that can log everything that goes on. It is likely that Oracle databases offer more security features than any other piece of software that has ever been created.

While this all sounds great, with all these features comes tremendous complexity. Therein lies the problem. Complexity is bad for security. The more features and options you have, the more potential for misconfigurations. Even worse, the more complex the code, the more opportunities there are for making mistakes, the kind of mistakes that can void all of the fancy security features. Oracle is not immune to making coding mistakes. In fact, so many vulnerabilities have been found that Oracle has been forced to implement a quarterly patch release schedule, solely for fixing security holes in their products. Each quarter, more devastating vulnerabilities are announced and fixed, and with each release, more researchers and hackers jump into the fray, finding more and more vulnerabilities for the software giant to fix. Several of the vulnerabilities found thus far have been extremely disastrous. In more than 10 cases, vulnerabilities have been discovered that allow an unauthenticated user to connect to the database and assume the role of SYSDBA, taking complete control over the database and everything in it, regardless of the security features that are enabled at the time. This is a fascinating dichotomy, as Oracle is likely both the most secure and the most vulnerable database in existence today.

The Regulatory Environment Driving Database Security

Over the last several years, things have changed dramatically in the IT Security world. Data security has become a major focus area for both government and industry regulations, real regulations with real consequences for non-compliance. At the heart of any data security program must be a database security program, as most of the world’s sensitive data spends 95+ percent of its time in a database, most commonly an Oracle database. We have all heard of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) , the US Federal regulation enforcing strict control financial reporting practices for publicly traded companies, but there are a host of other regulations that govern data security in a similar way. Financial institutions must comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act (GLBA), requiring protection of personally identifiable information. Health care institutions must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requiring protection of patient health information. Retailers and credit card processors must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), requiring strong protection of cardholder information. US Federal government departments must comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), requiring proper safeguards to protect all sensitive data stored in Federal systems. The list goes on and on, with a large backlog of pending legislation dealing with data security currently working its way through both the state and Federal legislation process.

The world of the DBA has permanently changed. While security in the database was often ignored, or more commonly was left for the firewall and network team to handle, today’s regulatory environment has changed all that. Inadequate security controls at the database level can now lead to fines, penalties, loss of business, and in extreme cases even jail time. Organizations are no longer left to their own devices to ensure the security of their systems. Today, third-party audit firms police data security under the auspices of auditing regulatory compliance. There is no longer a choice but to draft and enforce an effective security program around protecting the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data. Database security has entered the limelight.

Let’s examine some of the regulations that you are likely to run into which mandate that you secure your databases.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) is probably the most widely known regulation governing the protection of corporate data. Also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002, SOX requires that all public companies implement effective internal controls around financial reporting, and mandates review of those controls by independent auditors. SOX was passed amidst a storm of corporate disclosure of illegal and irresponsible accounting practices led by Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco. The fury over re-establishing investor confidence was overwhelming, and when put to a vote the bill passed in the Senate 99 to 0 and in the House 423 to 3.

SOX includes several requirements that directly relate to data security, primarily focused around ensuring the integrity of financial information that will be reported to the public. SOX makes corporate Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) accountable for the accuracy of financial reports, requiring them to provide personal certification of each report released. Jail time is stipulated for those executives who purposefully misstate financial performance. Computer systems that store, process, and manage financial data are recognized as tightly coupled with the overall financial reporting process, and are therefore required to be secured. Typically, organizations implement strong access controls, auditing of access to financial reporting systems, strict segregation of duties, and a thorough vulnerability management process in order to comply with SOX and eliminate the potential for a mistake or attack sending an executive off to the big house.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act (GLBA) passed in November 1999 in an effort to reform rules governing the financial institutions. The bill repeals the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing banks to offer investment, commercial banking, and insurance services. GLBA paved the way for mega-mergers in the financial services industry, including the combination of Citibank and Travelers Group, forming Citigroup, the largest financial institution in America.

GLBA includes two key rules which govern the collection, storage, protection, and disclosure of customer’s personal financial information by financial institutions: the Financial Privacy Rule and the Safeguards Rule. The Safeguards Rule mandates financial institutions to develop and document an information security plan to protect client’s personal data stored within their systems. The plan must include a process for performing risk analysis on existing systems and controls, a process to monitor access to personal information, and a program to test the effectiveness of the security controls in place. Since nearly all personal data stored by financial institutions is kept within a database, GLBA has direct implications on database security.

California Senate Bill 1386

Leading what has become a national charge, in 2003, California passed a bill requiring companies to disclose any incident where the unencrypted personal information was, or is, reasonably believed to have been acquired by an unauthorized person. Since the bill passed, several other states have enacted similar legislation, and it is only a matter of time before the Federal government passes a breach disclose bill as well (at the time of this writing, more than a dozen such Federal bills have been proposed).

The motivations behind California Senate Bill 1386 are clearly stipulated in the text of the law; privacy and financial security are at risk because of a significant increase in the incidences of identity theft. The bill notes a 108 percent year over year increase in identify theft cases in Los Angeles County in 2000. Before the passage of this bill, it was commonplace for organizations that experienced some kind of breach to keep it a secret, not even reporting the theft to law enforcement. Senate Bill 1386 changed all that, leading to what have become regular disclosures of major data breaches that have made headlines embarrassing companies and devastating consumer confidence. The threat of disclosure alone has been enough to force many companies into establishing real programs for data security, often grounded within the database infrastructure.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Passed in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to protect workers and their families from losing their health insurance when they change or lose their jobs. HIPAA also establishes a set of Administrative Simplification provisions which serve several functions including creating national standards for electronic health care transactions and ensuring the security and privacy of Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI is interpreted as any data about medical records or health care payment history that can be linked to an individual.

HIPAA compliance requires that organizations implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure the protection of PHI. Administrative safeguards are a documented set of procedures that demonstrate the mechanisms by which an organization will comply with the act. Physical safeguards are a set of controls designed to protect against an unauthorized person gaining physical access to protected data (for example, by taking a server or hard disk). Technical safeguards are access controls intended to ensure that only authorized individuals can gain logical access in order to view, modify, or delete protected data. This includes protecting data at rest while stored in a database, as well as data in transit while traversing the network.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

Before the Payment Card Industry issued their first Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) in January 2005, each one of the major credit card companies had created their own set of standards for how their merchants, issuers, and acquirers should protect cardholder information. Visa CISP, MasterCard SDP, Discover DISC, Amex DSOP—it was an alphabet soup of standards that were similar to one another but never the same. For large merchants that accept each type of card, compliance to the letter of each standard was nearly impossible. In an effort to simplify compliance and achieve broad acceptance of a single, well-considered set of standards, the PCI Security Standards Council was founded by American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa. This group has worked together to produce two revisions of the PCI-DSS. The latest version, 1.1, was approved in September 2006.

The PCI standard is significantly different than the government standards we have covered so far. PCI-DSS provides specific details on what steps must be taken in order to properly secure cardholder data. At the top level there are six categories of controls that must be implemented:

  • Build and Maintain a Secure Network
  • Protect Cardholder Data
  • Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program
  • Implement Strong Access Control Measures
  • Regularly Monitor and Test Networks
  • Maintain an Information Security Policy

The PCI DSS is a multifaceted security standard that includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design, and other critical protective measures. This comprehensive standard is intended to help organizations proactively protect customer account data.

The Federal Information Security Management Act

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) was enacted in 2002 as part of the E-Government Act, designed to modernize the inner workings of the US Federal government. Before FISMA came along, information security was largely neglected in the government, particularly by the civilian agencies. The situation was clear; there was little motivation or budget allocated to cyber security, so Congress intervened in an attempt to make implementing security controls a mandatory responsibility of government IT shops.

FISMA requires that any information system used or operated by a US Federal agency, including those run by contractors and others on behalf of the government, follow a set of prescribed security processes. These processes are not defined within the FISMA regulations, but rather FISMA makes reference to other pertinent standards and legislation, including Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) documents, National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) special publications, HIPAA, and the Privacy Act of 1974.

FISMA mandates that all Federal information systems be reviewed to determine the types of data contained within the system, and then categorized based on the damage that could be caused if the system’s confidentiality, integrity, or availability were to become compromised. There is significant debate as to the effectiveness of FISMA; however, few will argue the fact that FISMA and its web of related standards is extremely complex. Minimum security requirements for Federal agencies are outlined in FIPS 200, which refers to security controls described in NIST SP 800-53 (Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems). NIST 800-53 is further broken down into categories for various types of information systems, and describes both operations and technical safeguards that must be implemented for each. It should be no surprise that NIST has created documents in the 800-53 series that directly address databases and database security.

Compliance with FISMA is generally evaluated on a departmental level by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). This process is referred to as certification and accreditation (C&A) and includes a review of the controls and processes in place, and then signoff that the controls and processes meet Federal standards. Typically, each system must pass the C&A process at least once every three years or whenever a major change is made to the system, whichever comes first.

Major Data Theft Incidents

Despite the myriad of regulations governing data security, and a clear increase in focus on security issues in general, there have been a deluge of successful thefts of data on a vast scale. There have been so many incidents made public that the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse was established as a publicly available chronology of data breaches, and a count of the number of personal records that have been disclosed since February 2005. At the time of this writing in May 2007, over 150,000,000 records containing sensitive personal information have been compromised in several hundred incidents. Check out the latest chronology at www.privacyrights.org/ar/ChronDataBreaches.htm.

The problem is not entirely limited to theft. There have been a significant number of cases where information was disclosed inadvertently, often because of an innocent or silly mistake that seemingly lies outside the realm of data security. There have been far too many cases to cover them all here, too many even to cover just the really interesting ones, so we have chosen four incidents to describe in some detail. These examples are intended to paint a picture of the various ways in which sensitive data has become compromised in the recent past.

CardSystems Solutions--June 2005

In the spring of 2005, a hacker was able to exploit vulnerabilities at CardSystems Solutions in order to gain access to their internal network and retrieve detailed data on approximately 40 million credit card transactions that the company had stored in a database. CardSystems was an Atlanta-based credit card processing company, responsible for handling $15 billion dollars in annual transactions on behalf of more then 100,000 small- to medium-sized businesses. The attack was detected first by a MasterCard fraud detection system when several likely fraudulent transactions were detected. MasterCard was able to trace the cardholder information used back to CardSystems, whom they immediately notified of a possible breach. A short investigation by CardSystems confirmed that their systems had been hacked. While the exact details of the attack remain the secret of the credit card companies, several clues have been disclosed that allow us to piece together the most likely scenario for how the attack worked.

During September 2004, a hacker found vulnerabilities in an Internet-facing application that CardSystems customers used to access data. The attacker was able to gain access to the Web application, likely through an easily guessed password, and then begin the process of looking for ways to access the underlying servers and databases directly. The most common method for using a Web application to gain access to internal databases and other systems is via Structured Query Language (SQL) injection. The attacker was able to locate points in the application where weak input validation allowed him to inject SQL into some forms, and interact directly with the database that housed the application data. From there, the attacker gained access to the database server’s operating system, likely using database functions to do so, such as xp_cmdshell on MS SQL Server and Sybase. Since databases generally run with full administrative access on their host servers, once the attacker could access the OS, they assumed full control. From there, a script was created on a server in the CardSystems internal network. The script was designed to search the network for a particular type of file that contains Credit Card Track Data (the data on the magnetic strip on the back of your credit cards), and then send that data to the attacker via File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

In clear violation of the credit card companies’ data security rules, CardSystems had been storing files that contained complete track data for failed transactions. These files were the ones targeted and stolen by the script. The files contained a complete set of information on each transaction, including the cardholder’s name, card number, expiration date, and CVV code. With this data, the attacker was able to initiate the fraudulent transactions that led to the attack being detected. Within 60 days of discovering the hack, Visa declared that they would revoke CardSystems’ authority to process their transactions. American Express quickly followed. CardSystems was to pay the ultimate price for their negligence; they were out of business.

ChoicePoint--February 2005

The attack against ChoicePoint was more of a brilliantly executed con than what most of us think of as a hack. ChoicePoint is a data aggregator and information broker, collecting, mining, and selling information on the backgrounds and spending patterns of, well, of everyone. This data is then sold to insurance companies, loan officers, media companies, law enforcement, or really any business looking for background checks on potential employees or customers. The attackers took advantage of ChoicePoint’s business model and poor customer screening processes to essentially convince them to hand over the data.

Attackers set up approximately 50 fake companies, giving them legitimate names and phone numbers, dreaming up business models, and even establishing false Tax IDs. They used these companies to open accounts with ChoicePoint, who were only too happy to sign up a few more customers and start feeding them data. Over a period of months, these companies requested and received data on 145,000 adults from ChoicePoint, acting and operating in much the same way as any of their legit customers. But these folks were not legit and not interested in targeted marketing campaigns. They were interested in identity theft, in destroying the finances of others for their own personal gains. The breach was eventually uncovered, but the exact data collected could not be determined. This is when things got ugly for ChoicePoint.

Making the mistake of allowing these accounts to be set up was shameful, and punitive action was certainly unavoidable, but when the prosecuting attorneys realized that ChoicePoint had no way to determine what records had been accessed, they went out for blood. ChoicePoint executives were subpoenaed to testify before Congress, where many difficult questions were asked about the lack of tracking and user auditing within the sensitive information systems that the company maintained. The incident cost ChoicePoint a fortune, kicked off a flurry of legislation governing data mining companies that collect and sell personal information, and made crystal clear to the business world that if you are going to store personal information, you’d better take steps to protect it and ensure that you properly track access to it, and retain the audit logs.

TJX--January 2007

Currently on record as the largest single incident of data theft of all time, information on nearly 50 million credit card transactions was disclosed to what appears to be a group of professional computer criminals. The attack was technically complex, devastatingly effective, and was in place providing data to the attackers for nearly two years before it was noticed. In a 2006 research study by the Ponemon Institute, 31 companies that had experienced a data breach were analyzed, and the cost to the company of each compromised record was estimated at $182.00. Using that number as a guideline, TJX could be forced to pay out nearly $9,000,000,000. This staggering figure does not include the less tangible costs such as loss of business, loss of productivity, brand damage, or loss of market capitalization. With risks on this scale, it is hard to believe that companies don’t do more to secure their data. Hopefully, by following the steps in this book, you can help your organization avoid this ultimate nightmare scenario.

Details of the attack remain somewhat sketchy, but we have a general timeline of events and a sound theory of what went on. TJX first found evidence of unauthorized software on their systems on December 18, 2006. They immediately hired two major consulting firms to perform a detailed analysis of the incident and provide guidance on how to respond. Within a few days, it was becoming clear that the software was indeed malicious and that the intruder responsible continued to have access to critical financial systems within TJX’s network, access that dated back to July 2005. The attack was multi-faceted, including elements of stealing files, intercepting communications, and breaking encryption on protected data.

Files stolen contained historical information about payment card transactions. TJX has not been able to completely identify which files were stolen, primarily because they periodically delete these files during the normal course of business. Some of the files that were likely accessed dated back to 2003, when security rules about protecting cardholder information were far more lax than they are today. These older files generally contained clear-text (unencrypted) data, giving the attacker easy access to the credit card details.

Taking the attack to the next level, the attacker was able to gain access to the network used during the payment card transaction approval process. During this process, cardholder information, including names, card numbers, expirations dates, and CVV2 numbers are transmitted to the payment card issuer without encryption. The intruder was able to watch this approval process in action, collecting the credit card data as it traversed the network.

The final blow to TJX was the discovery that the attacker had likely gained access to the software and decryption keys needed to decipher the card data that had been stored, properly encrypted, in their databases. Even when the company believed that it had strong security in place to protect their sensitive data, the attacker was able to find holes in the system and gain full access.

The methods used to initially penetrate the TJX network have not been disclosed, however many experts agree that it likely began with the attacker gaining access to an unprotected wireless network at one of TJX’s retail stores. Sitting in a parked car in the parking lot, the attacker could have connected to the wireless network and attacked the system used to manage the store’s cash registers. Once that system was breached (probably using a freeware hacker tool downloaded from the Internet), it became a simple manner to connect to the central processing systems in TJX headquarters. Corporate security is often compared to a Tootsie-Pop; hard and crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle. The analogy refers to strong security at the network perimeter, but little to no security inside the network. Once the hacker found his or her way past TJX’s network perimeter, it was game over; weak internal security controls allowed them to steal everything but the kitchen sink.

Department of Veterans Affairs--May 2006

The “breach” at Veterans Affairs (VA) was an interesting one, as it demonstrates how a seemingly innocent (but poorly thought through) act can lead to the biggest inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information in the history of the US government. This case involved a break-in and a theft, but not in the way that you would expect. On May 3, 2006, a VA data analyst who had legitimate access to the VA information systems took an extract of Veteran’s names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Approximately 27 million records were written to an external hard disk drive, and left attached to the analyst’s laptop. At the end of the day, the laptop left the building, going home with its rightful owner, with the external disk still attached. This was a clear violation of VA policies, but no technical controls had been implemented to either detect or stop this type of behavior.

That evening, the analyst’s house was broken into by a petty burglar looking to steal electronics and other small household valuables. Included among the thief’s booty was a laptop, the very same laptop that came home from work that day, along with that very important hard disk. The next morning, the break-in was noticed and the missing laptop reported to the VA. The data on the laptop was never an issue, but the hard disk was a big deal and while it seemed clear that the data was never the target of the theft, there was no way to know what had happened with the data once it was in criminal hands. A mad FBI search for the laptop began, lasting for about eight weeks before the missing machine and the all important external disk was found. But it was too late; the data was out there and there was no way to prove it had not been accessed or transferred to others (although the FBI did perform a forensic analysis and found no evidence that the data had been touched).

Everyone affected needed to be informed, credit monitoring services were contracted to watch for potential identity theft, and the government took action first requiring the tracking of all data extracts from systems containing sensitive data, and soon thereafter mandating hard drive encryption on all mobile PCs. VA also implemented more training and education programs on data handling policies, but apparently not enough. It was not even three months later before the VA experienced a similar breach, this time involving 18,000 records stolen with a laptop that a contractor for Unisys had taken home for the night.

A Step-by-step Approach to Securing Oracle

This book focuses on a practical, step-by-step approach to securing Oracle databases. We’ll define three levels of Oracle security and provide you guidance on how to determine what level is appropriate for each of your systems, then explain exactly how to get yourself from where you are today to the right level for you. We’ll take things a step or two beyond just helping you secure your Oracle databases. We will build a mechanism for tracking your progress, establishing a plan and then demonstrating continuous improvement. We will also create a system to measure and prove the security of your systems to both internal and external compliance officers and auditors, giving you the option of using a checklist and a set of scripts, or automating the process with commercially available tools. Your journey to secure Oracle databases begins here.

Tools & Traps...

One Size Fits All Doesn’t Fit Most

We’ve seen quite a few companies try to start a comprehensive database security program only to end up nowhere but frustrated. The most common reason for their failure: establishing a “one size fits all” approach to securing their systems. The database environment within a typical enterprise is extremely diverse, and different systems have different needs. This makes it next to impossible to create one overarching set of standards to which every system must comply. The one size fits all approach can fail in several different ways, but the end result is always the same: no real database security program, and an easy target for any hacker who cares to attack.

The first step in the security program is to establish a plan and a set of guidelines, which is a common point of failure. Some companies will establish a working group in order to build a set of security and configuration guidelines. Problems often arise when the members of the working group, who often represent different functional business areas, are unable to come to agreement on common standards. In the most severe cases, this leads to the database security effort being abandoned before it really begins, leaving each administrator to decide on their own if and how they will protect their data. More commonly, working groups establish a watered down set of standards, leaving plenty of room for the exceptions required by each business area, but also leaving a knowledgeable attacker with open doors into the systems.

Once a set of standards have been established, they are often passed to the database administration teams with little or no guidance on how to implement the requirements. The issue is not that the DBAs don’t know how to configure the security settings; they know the databases better then anyone else. The problem lies in prioritization and workload. In organizations with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of databases, the task of implementing a security standard enterprise-wide can easily be overwhelming. When open questions are left about which systems to secure first, or how far to go with each system before moving on, efforts often fizzle out after tightly locking down a small handful of randomly chosen databases. Hackers will use automated tools to search for weaknesses across any database they can access; securing only a few is almost like securing none at all.

With a set of security configuration standards that explain how to secure each database based on business value and risk, and a clear plan that sets out a priority order in which to secure the databases, an enterprise can be extremely successful in implementing database security across the organization. This book will help you build that plan for your Oracle databases, but the lessons learned can easily be translated to secure any database platform.

Appropriate Security For Each Class of Database System

To get started, you will need to assign each of the databases you are responsible for a priority rating based primarily on its business value. This activity should not be performed in a vacuum. Rather you should get together with other stakeholders within your organization, folks such as the database administrators, IT security engineers, application owners, business line managers, and internal auditors to review and assign each system a business value rating. It is often easiest to use a set of categories rather than come up with an absolute priority list. Try using three categories, such as:

  • Business Critical
    • Databases that must be running in order for a business to run. For example, databases running online retail shops, stock trading systems, or critical infrastructure systems.
    • Databases that contain data that if stolen could cause irreparable harm to the business. For example, databases containing credit card transaction data, corporate secrets, or sensitive personal information on customers or employees.
    • Databases that require protection in order to achieve regulatory compliance. For example, databases containing financial reporting data for SOX, personal health information for HIPAA, or credit card numbers for PCI-DSS.
  • Business Impact
    • Databases supporting business operations. For example, databases hosting HR systems, inventory management systems, or customer support systems.
    • Databases supporting business intelligence and long-term decision-making. For example, databases containing historical financial data or marketing data.
  • Everything Else
    • Databases that do not contain sensitive data.
    • Databases that are not required to support day-to-day business operations.
    • Development, QA, and test databases (not backup or disaster recovery systems; those belong in the same category as the primary systems they safeguard).

Once your databases have been assigned to categories, you can make smart decisions about which to secure first and how far to go in securing each one. Your most critical systems will get the highest level of security, while the least critical systems get the lowest level. This way, each database gets only the security features that it requires, eliminating the excess workload caused by forcing every database to be secured to the same standard of protection. Like a system of building blocks, each category takes over where the last leaves off, building a foundation of security and then expanding it to the needs of the system it is protecting. This allows you to quickly establish a baseline level of security on every database, preventing the vast majority of simple attacks and lowering business risk, then moving on to conquer more complex issues with more rigorous security standards on only the most sensitive databases.

Demonstrating Compliance

It is not enough to secure your databases; you have to prove it. Achieving compliance with anything from government regulations to internal security standards means providing evidence that you have taken the proper steps to secure your system. To enable you to demonstrate and communicate your Oracle security to whomever you must report to, each level includes a systematic approach to maintaining and assessing compliance. This includes references to checklists, scripts, and tools you can use to automate the assessment and monitoring process.


With a solid understanding of the history and evolution of security features in Oracle, we hope that you can understand how the many different security controls came to be and why they were added to the system. Government and Industry regulations have been established to govern the handling of sensitive personal and financial information, forcing companies to comply or face significant punitive actions. Even with increasing pressure to secure systems, major organizations have experienced high profile breaches, with costs as high as going out of business. Hacking is a type of theft that companies must target with real investments in people, process, and technology.

This book gives you a prescription to secure a single database, or to build an enterprise-wide strategy to lock down your critical Oracle database systems and tightly integrate your database security strategy with your corporate security infrastructure. By establishing a strong Oracle security program, you can play a lead role in ensuring your business meets regulatory requirements, properly protects corporate secrets, and acts as a good custodian of the sensitive personal and financial information that you store.

Solutions Fast Track

A Brief History of Security Features in Oracle

  • At first, Oracle had only the most basic security features. However, security was a consideration from day one.
  • Over time, Oracle evolved to add a slew of basic protections. These included authentication and password management, authorization and access controls, networking, and network security.
  • Recently, Oracle has added a number of security products to apply to the database to achieve levels of security previously impossible.

The Regulatory Environment Driving Database Security

  • After several incidents of misuse of personal information and of companies misleading investors with falsified financial information, governments have taken a stand and enacted legislation requiring companies to protect sensitive data that they collect and store.
  • The commercial marketplace has taken steps on its own to regulate and protect sensitive data. Leading the charge is the PCI-DSS, demanding that merchants and banks take seriously the responsibility to protect credit card information
  • Organizations that do not comply with the regulations that govern them are severely penalized. The risk of major fines and even jail time is enough to force organizations into compliance.

Major Data Theft Incidents

  • Data theft has become a serious problem, with professional criminal rings turning to hacking as the next front for their enterprises.
  • Large and prestigious institutions have been hacked, leaking tremendous amounts of data about customers, patients, employees, students, and everyone else. Mandatory disclosure of these incidents has led to great embarrassment and loss of business.
  • CardSystems, ChoicePoint, TJX, and Veterans Affairs all experienced major data theft incidents. Each one was different, from sophisticated computer crime at TJX to a dumb mistake and a house burglar at VA. The methods are less important than the results. Companies that don’t protect their data can and do lose their data.

A Step-by-step Guide to Securing Oracle

  • Oracle security can be defined in various levels, with appropriate levels of security defined for each class of systems. Databases are classified based on business value and then security controls are mapped on to suit the business need.
  • Build a security plan from the ground up, applying a base set of security controls to every database, and then expanding on those controls for the more sensitive and business critical systems.
  • A system of measurements provides proof that each system has been secured and meets the requirements put forth by anything from government regulations to internal security configuration guidelines and standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the top Oracle security issue you see out there today?

A: By far, it is default accounts with default passwords enabled in the database. Read more about that in Chapter 4.

Q: I’ve been a DBA for 20 years. Why am I only now being asked to secure my databases?

A: The world has changed. The bad guys have pulled off some pretty significant crimes, so the good guys have put controls in place to try and stop the attackers. Today, your business is faced with increasing regulatory pressure to secure your critical data, while at the same time there are more hackers than ever trying to get at it.

Q: My database is behind a firewall in a secure network, am I protected?

A: Not a chance. Today, most of the bad guys operate from inside your network. More then 70 percent of attacks involve an insider. Also, that firewall is full of holes, designed to allow applications to function. Attackers have found ways to exploit vulnerable applications to gain direct access to the databases.

Q: How much work is involved in securing an Oracle database?

A: Every database is different. Depending on the sensitivity of the data, the environment it operates in, and several other factors, the answer can be anything from an hour to a couple of weeks. The important thing is to take the task step-by-step, eliminating the most critical issues first and making real progress from the beginning. Security is never complete and no system is unbreakable, however, we can build significant defenses so that the effort to break in far outweighs any potential payoff to the attacker.

Practical Oracle Security
By Josh Shaul, Aaron Ingram
Published by Elsevier
ISBN10: 1-59749-198-5
Published: Nov. 12, 2007
Dimensions 7 1/2 X 9 1/4 in
Pages: 288
Buy this book

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