Backing Up SSRS Encryption Keys

Jonathan Kehayias reminds us to back up those SQL Server Reporting Services encryption keys:

If you run SQL Server Reporting Services, part of your DR plan needs to include a backup of the encryption key for SSRS. This sadly is an all to often overlooked part of the solution, even though it is incredibly easy to do. If you don’t have a backup of the encryption key during a restore, the report server will never be able to decrypt the encrypted content (connection strings, passwords, etc) stored in the database, and your only recourse would be to delete the encrypted content and recreate it manually or through a redeployment of datasources.

Jonathan includes a couple of links to good resources. Your backups are only good if they include all of the keys and certificates you used. But keep those certificates stored someplace other than where the backups are stored.

L-Diversity versus K-Anonymity

Duncan Greaves explains the concepts behind l-diversity:

There are problems with K-anonymous datasets, namely the homogeneous pattern attack, and the background knowledge attack, details of which are in my original post. A slightly different approach to anonymising public datasets comes in the form of ℓ -diversity, a way of introducing further entropy/diversity into a dataset.

A sensitive data record is made of the following microdata types: the ID; any Key Attributes; and the confidential outcome attribute(s). ℓ -diversity seeks to extend the equivalence classes that we created using K-anonymity by generalisation and masking of the quasi-identifiers (the QI groups) to the confidential attributes in the record as well. The ℓ -diversity principle demands that, in each QI-group, at most 1/ ℓ of its tuples can have an identical sensitive attribute value.

L-diversity is not perfect either, but Duncan gives a good explanation of the topic.

Building a VPC with AWS

Priyaj Kumar takes us through the process of building a Virtual Private Cloud in AWS:

AWS provides a lot of services, these services are sufficient to run your architecture. The backbone for the security of this architecture is VPC (Virtual Private Cloud). VPC is basically a private cloud in the AWS environment that helps you to use all the services by AWS in your defined private space. You have control over the virtual network and you can also restrict the incoming traffic using security groups.

Overall, VPC helps you to secure your environment and give you a complete authority of incoming traffic. There are two types of VPCs, Default VPC that is by default created by Amazon and Non-Default VPC that is created by you to suffice your security needs.

Now that you have an idea of how VPC works, I will take you through the different services offered by Amazon VPC.

Read on to see how to set one up.

Which Power BI Visuals Send Data Externally

Meagan Longoria does a bit of investigation into data privacy and Power BI visuals:

One thing that makes understanding data privacy in custom visuals easier is the designation of a certified custom visual. One of the requirements for certification is ” Does not access external services or resources, including but not limited to, no HTTP/S or WebSocket requests go out of Power BI to any services.”

You can find the list of currently certified custom visuals on this page. Custom visuals are also identified in the marketplace by a blue star with a check mark.

Read on for some good investigative analysis.

Issues From Using gMSA Accounts with Docker

Michal Poreba shares some lessons from trying to set up Docker and SQL Server to use gMSA accounts:

While in the end I was able to make it work on Windows Server 2016, 1803, 2019 and 1809 I wasted some time trying to make it work with docker 17.06. Unsuccessfully. Docker 18.09.1 and 18.09.2 worked every time.
There are some reports of intermittent problems with specific OS updates breaking stuff, like the one here but I wasn’t able to reproduce it. I wonder if the updates changes something else that it causing problems, in other words is it the problem with the update itself or the update process?

Read on for several helpful tips, as well as dead ends to avoid.

Group Managed Service Accounts

Jamie Wick explains Group Managed Service Accounts and uses Powershell to create them for use on a new SQL Server instance:

Service Accounts are a requirement for installing and running a SQL Server. For many years Microsoft has recommended that each SQL Server service be run as a separate low-rights Windows account. Where possible, the current recommendation is to use Managed Service Accounts (MSA) or Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA
). Both account types are ones where the account password is managed by the Domain Controller. The primary difference being that MSA are used for standalone SQL instances, whereas clustered SQL instances require gMSA. In this post, we’re going to use PowerShell to create Group Managed Service Accounts, and then deploy them for use on multiple SQL servers that will be hosting an Availability Group.

Click through for more explanation as well as several scripts showing how to create and use them.

Shared Database Privacy

Duncan Greaves has some thoughts about safeguarding privacy in shared databases:

The difficulty with privacy (or more correctly, information confidentiality) in database terms is that databases are supposed to maintain huge amounts of information, and processing and recording data is difficult, if not impossible without them. Public bodies especially, have difficulty in defining and maintaining the boundaries of information disclosure that they should provide, whilst maintaining the utility of the information for the improvement of welfare and services.
  Privacy is contingent on first having a correctly secured database. Additional privacy controls are required when sensitive data leaves the protected trust perimeter of the database to be utilised by third parties.

Click through for more detail.

.Net Core On Docker Connecting Via AD To SQL Server

Michal Poreba shows us how to connect Windows Docker containers running .Net Core to SQL Server via Active Directory when the containers are not connected to the domain:

The good news is that it is not an unreasonable requirement and it has been done before. The solution is to use Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA) and Credential Spec Files. A number of people have already documented their efforts. Some were more successful than others.

Click through for a detailed guide to getting this working.

Effective Identities And Power BI Embedded

Angela Henry shows how you can use Power BI Embedded for row-level security even when the accessing users don’t have Power BI accounts:

Now that you familiar with Row Level Security in Power BI, how do you make it work when you want to pass in your customer’s identifier because your customers don’t have Power BI accounts?  It seems like the only way to make dynamic row level security is to use the Username() DAX function?  But wait, doesn’t that require the user to have a Power BI account?  Sigh, it seems we are going in circles.

The one thing these articles don’t talk about is that when you are using Power BI Embedded, you can pass in whatever you like for the EffectiveIdentity via the Power BI API and it will “overwrite” the Username() function.  What?!  That’s right, it will completely ignore the Username() function and use whatever you give it.  WooHoo!

Read on for the details.

Testing SQL Logins For Weak Passwords

Tom LaRock shows how you can test SQL authenticated logins for weak passwords using a built-in SQL Server function:

DATA SECURITY IS HARD BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE DUMB.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Do a quick search for “common password list” and you’ll see examples of passwords scraped from breaches. These are passwords often used by default to secure systems and data.
Chances are, these passwords are in your environment, right now.
Here’s what you can do to protect your data.

Read on to see what you can do, both to detect weak passwords and to make it harder for users to use them.

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