Tag Archives: TDE

Windows 2008 Server End of Life: The best chance to move to the cloud

30 June 2018

Windows 2008 Server End of Life is near. Within the next months many companies are busy with the replacement of Windows 2008 based infrastructure and application servers to avoid the next Wannacry or NotPetya.

It appears to me that this is the best opportunity to migrate at least application servers to the cloud. And, in the best case, to get rid of the servers at all by transforming the application to SAAS. If technical or the organizational limitations do not allow this at least the transformation to PAAS and IAAS should be considered.

What stops us from doing this? Very often it is the fear of loss of access to critical business data or the fear of loss of the data at all. At least in the latter case technical protection measures can be applied to mitigate this issue.

Transparent database encryption

Transparent database encryption (TDE) is often the matter of choice. All encryption is performed transparently by the database service, with no impact on the application and the users because only the database files or critical attributes in tables are encrypted. User interaction is required only during database startup to activate the encryption engine.

Unfortunately, TDE provides only encryption at rest. Thus TDE stops infrastructure admins from using unauthorized copies of a database or a virtual database server because they cannot activate the encryption engine. Once the database is started all users and database administrators have access.

Application level encryption

With Application level encryption (ALE) all encryption is performed by the application. Data is encrypted when entered in or retrieved through the application. Thus data is encrypted during transfer and at rest.

As long as the access is not routed through the application server the data are accessible for no one. Even infrastructure or database admins are barred unless they have access to the encryption key.

The security problem is shifted towards that of operational security of the application server. A solution to this problem could be to encrypt the data in the database with a key that is encrypted against the users access keys. This ensures that the encrypted data cannot be decrypted without access to at least one users key.

The remaining risk is that an attacker reads the keys or the plain text data from the process memory of the application service.

The effort to implement application level encryption is high because the application has to be changed. In addition, a key infrastructure must be set up to avoid data loss in the case a user key is e.g. inaccessible. But the gain in information and operational security is high.

The pros and cons of the encryption concepts in summary.

Table 1: Database Encryption Concepts Summary

Table 1: Database Encryption Concepts Summary

With Application Level Encryption, outsourcing or cloud adoption is made easy.

Have a good weekend.

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Anthem Hacked – The call for ‘More of Everything’ grows louder

19 February 2015

Just some thoughts about the call for more technology, encryption, pen testing, etc.

The big question is: Would database encryption have slowed down or stopped the attackers? From my experience with Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) in the Oracle universe I can only answer: Definitely Not!

If it’s properly set up TDE works very well to prevent unauthorized access to data in rest. Administrators and users are not able to read or copy database files when e.g. the database is shut down.

But as long as the database is started TDE works transparent for all users and the administrators: They can access the data with applications or SQL tools without any restriction.

If you like to keep the administrators away from the data you must set up Oracle Database Vault on top of TDE. Database Vault acts as a firewall between the users and the administrators. Administrators can run their administrative tasks, but they could no longer access the data. In addition, the Separation of Duties principle is enforced for security critical operations like definition of users.

But what’s about malicious insiders? Malicious insiders are responsible for about two-third of all attacks, but neither TDE nor Vault would stop them from accessing all data. With Label Security a fine-grain access control system is available that gives data admins the opportunity to restrict a user to individual data sets in a table.

Sounds like rocket science, doesn’t it? Far from it. Most of this products are for several years in the market, but they are widely unknown, and, the effort for implementation is high.

That’s it for today.

For further reading please see

Anthem Cyber Hack: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Anthem Breach Should Convince Healthcare To Double Down On Security

Anthem Breach Prompts New York To Conduct Cybersecurity Reviews Of All Insurers