#infosec issues on moving to the #cloud #DBaaS

Last week I was at Oracle Cloud World working at the ODTUG booth. This gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of people who are seriously looking at moving their environment to the cloud. While chatting with these people, I started to pull together some thoughts on the security issues that come with moving to the cloud. Many of those issues are the same for hosting your own database applications. There are several issues with moving to the cloud and if you don’t address them it can become dark and stormy.

What security questions do you need to address prior to moving to the cloud? Note: many of these issues also applies to hosting your own databases! This subject is complex and I’m just touching on some of the issues.  If you don’t do your due diligence you will get burned.


Will and How will your data be encrypted? First off, all of your data should be encrypted by default. I am also of the <OPINION> cloud provider should not even offer to store your information unencrypted. </OPINION>. With the advent of hardware encryption modules, encryption performance is a non-issue.

There are a couple of options on encrypting your data, both have strengths and both have weaknesses. First of the easiest encryption option to implement is tablespace encryption. This option is used to encrypt all of your data stored in the tablespaces.  The down side is the data is unencrypted in the SGA.

The other option is column encryption.  This requires a bit of work upfront to setup. You are going to need to identify the atomic pieces of data that need to be encrypted then go through your indexing scheme to make sure you have not put indexes on columns that are encrypted with salt, and you don’t have foreign key constraints on columns that are encrypted. The upside of column encryption is the data stays encrypted in the SGA.

Will your backups be encrypted? Again, the answer must be yes and this is where it gets a bit tricky. RMAN backups are block level copies of the data files, so if your data is encrypted, your backups will be encrypted. However, if someone runs a datapump export of your data to refresh a lower environment and they do not specify encryption in the options, then your data will be saved unencrypted. The cloud provider must audit for this event and if it does happen, then you need to be informed and the cloud provider must make every effort to find and destroy that datapump file and any copies that have been made of it. You notice I used the word destroy as apposed to delete. Well there is good reason for that, if you delete a file there is still ghost data that can be recovered. So that or those file(s) will need to destroyed by a utility such as Linux shred.

The trusted insider attack surface has changed. <OPINION> It is safe to assume Oracle and other Tier 1 cloud providers will vet their system administrators. </OPINION> However; people change, that is just a fact of life. I frequently use the example of Edward Snowden. Prior to his leaking NSA documents he had gone through polygraph examinations, and his entire background put under a microscope, then he changed.

How will your cloud provider protect you against their trusted insider? The concept is easy, wall off your data from being seen by the system administrator. I’ve been a DBA for decades and can tell you with complete honesty, the DBA or SA does not need access to your data in order to do their job. <OPINION> Oracle has a great product Database Vault that is designed to wall off your data from the SAs. Any cloud solution should include the implementation of Database Vault. </OPINION>

Your cloud provider must provide a proven tool that protects your information from trusted insiders at the cloud provider.

Your cloud provider must also provide an integrated audit solution that tracks all audit events and allows you to report on audit events. Oracle Audit Vault comes with BI. You can use caned reports and customize those reports for your requirements.

Can you make customization’s to the security? Oracle Real Application Security (RAS) gives you, Redaction, Virtual Private Databases and audit on all connections. A full discussion of RAS is beyond the scope of this paper.

<OPIONION> At the very least, you should be able to implement, Virtual Private Databases, and Redaction to protect your data from the normal use of you applications. </OPINION> (I say normal use of you applications. Using different tools and grants it is possible to bypass these features.)

Will the cloud provider implement and configure Database Firewall. Database Firewall is a good tool to defend against sql injection attacks. It takes a lot of work to properly configure it especially if you are using a custom application. Will the cloud provider be responsible for the configuration of database firewall?

How are you going to get your data back if you decide to break up with your cloud provider?

If your cloud provider is using Oracle 12C multitennant an encryption key is generated with the container database and that is used to decrypt the encryption key for the pluggable database. I’m not going to dive too deep into this. The cloud provider can unplug your database and provide you with a set of keys to decrypt your data.

Then the worst happens, there is a data breach. You need to know, how will your cloud provider make you whole. The truth is, your customers will be upset with you and maybe your cloud provider.

End the end, you are the steward of your customers data and with that stewardship comes responsibilities.