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Category: Security

VM Firmware and Windows Secure Boot

David Klee gives us the lowdown on firmware specifications in virtual machines:

The Register is reporting that future versions of Windows Server OS is going to require the TPM 2.0 chip and Secure boot enabled by default. Secure boot is quite helpful to validate that servers boot into trusted environments. It sounds basic and straightforward, but if your VM administrators are not preparing for this change now, a much-overlooked setting in the hypervisor might backfire and you might not be able to enable this setting. That scenario would be a disaster if your security team suddenly issued a decree stating that you must enable this setting by some date.

Read on to see what this means if you’re using Hyper-V or VMware.

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Against Encrypted Stored Procedures

Denny Cherry explains why encrypting stored procedures is a fool’s errand:

To this I point out, that if you’ve encrypted your code so that I won’t look at it by accident, you are actually getting the exact opposite result. Because you are encrypting code that means that I can’t see if. That means that I want to make sure that you aren’t hiding any stupid practices from me. That means that as soon as I see your encrypted procedures I’m decrypting them to see what is going on with this code.

Along with this, because you’ve bothered to encrypt the stored procedures that means that I can’t get an execution plan, and query store can’t be used for the queries within the stored procedure. And since I’m guessing that I can performance tune your database better then your developers can, I’m going to be decrypting the procedures so that I can tune the system.

They’re trivial to decrypt and Denny points out a few reasons why it’s just a bad idea.

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Tips for Securing a SQL Server Instance

Eitan Blumin takes us through some ways of protecting an instance of SQL Server:

After reading up on a bunch of SQL Server penetration testing articles, I found that the steps of a common penetration test are as follows:

1. Discovery
2. Gaining Access
3. Elevating Permissions
4. Attacking (Loot / Destruction)

Logically, these steps mimic the steps taken by a common would-be hacker (except, of course, they try not to actually damage anything).

I’ll briefly describe each step from the point of view of a hacker or penetration tester, the common methodologies of each step, and offer recommendations that we can follow to protect our database systems at every level.

Click through for information on each step.

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Open-sourcing Kube2Hadoop

Cong Gu, et al, announce the open-sourcing of a project:

By default, there is a gap between the security model of Kubernetes and Hadoop. Specifically, Hadoop uses Kerberos, a three-party protocol built on symmetric key cryptography to ensure any clients accessing the cluster are who they claim to be. In order to avoid frequent authentication checks against a Kerberos server, Delegation Tokens, a lightweight two-party authentication method, was introduced to complement Kerberos authentication. The Hadoop delegation token by default has a lifespan of one day and can be renewed for up to seven days. Kubernetes, on the other hand, uses a certificate-based approach for authentication, and does not expose the owner of a job in any of its public-facing APIs. Therefore, it is not possible to securely determine the authorized user from within the pod using the native Kubernetes API and then use that username to fetch the Hadoop delegation token for HDFS access.  

To allow for Kubernetes workloads to securely access HDFS, we built Kube2Hadoop, a scalable and secure integration with HDFS Kerberos. This enables AI modelers at LinkedIn to use HDFS data in Kubernetes pods with access control through a user account or a headless account. Headless accounts are oftentimes used to denote a virtual team that is working on projects that would share the same data within the team. The data acquired can then be used in their model exploration and training with KubeFlow components such as the tf-operator and mpi-operator. In this blog, we will describe the design and authentication model of Kube2Hadoop. 

Read on to see how it works and a link to the GitHub repo.

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Azure Active Directory and the DatabricksPS Library

Gerhard Brueckl has updated the DatabricksPS library:

Databricks recently announced that it is now also supporting Azure Active Directory Authentication for the REST API which is now in public preview. This may not sound super exciting but is actually a very important feature when it comes to Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipelines in Azure DevOps or any other CI/CD tool. Previously, whenever you wanted to deploy content to a new Databricks workspace, you first needed to manually create a user-bound API access token. As you can imagine, manual steps are also bad for otherwise automated processes like a CI/CD pipeline. With Databricks REST API finally supporting Azure Active Directory Authentication of regular users and service principals, this last manual step is finally also gone!

If you do use Databricks and haven’t tried out DatabricksPS, I highly recommend it. I think it’s a much nicer experience than hitting the REST API directly, particularly because it deals with continuation tokens and making multiple calls to get your results.

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Untrusted Shared Access Signature Certificates in SQL Server

William Assaf diagnoses an issue:

If you’ve tried doing Backup to URL with SQL Server using a Shared Access Signature (SAS) certificate and received this error:

Error: 18204, Severity: 16, State: 1.BackupDiskFile::CreateMedia: Backup device ‘https://account.blob.core.windows.net/container/folder/msdb_log_202005170801.trn’ failed to create. Operating system error 50(The request is not supported.).Cannot open backup device ‘https://account.blob.core.windows.net/container/folder/msdb_log_202005170801.trn’. Operating system error 50(The request is not supported.). [SQLSTATE 42000] (Error 3201) BACKUP LOG is terminating abnormally. [SQLSTATE 42000] (Error 3013). NOTE: The step was retried the requested number of times (1) without succeeding. The step failed. 

You may have received the same error I encountered.

This error popped up only after startup of SQL Server. To resolve the problem, we’d recreate the SAS key, using the same cert in the same script, and the backups would start working again. This affected all types of SQL database backups.

William did some troubleshooting and explains the core problem. It’s a weird one.

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Power BI Report Page Access Control

Gilbert Quevauvilliers walks us through access control on Power BI pages:

With the update to the latest version in Power BI Desktop there is now the capability to control which users will see which pages in a report.

This is achieved using a combination of Row Level Security (RLS) and conditional formatting. This makes it a secure way of controlling access for specific users. I will demonstrate how this works below.

This is a clever solution to the problem of access control.

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Replicating Permissions with dbatools

Claudio Silva shows how you can take one user’s permission set and apply it to another user with dbatools:

What are the steps involved in a process like this?

Generally speaking, the quickest way I know is:
1. Get the permissions of the source login/user (For each database because we don’t want to miss any permission)
2. Save them to a .sql file
3. Open the file and replace ‘srcUser’ by ‘newUser’
4. Execute

Claudio shows how you can accomplish this quickly.

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Securing a Kafka Deployment

Rick Spurgeon and Nikoleta Verbeck give us some tips on securing Apache Kafka:

Confluent Platform provides Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), which addresses the gaps listed above. RBAC and ACLs perform similar functions but approach the problem differently and can be used independently or cooperatively. RBAC is powered by Confluent’s Metadata Service (MDS), which integrates with LDAP and acts as the central authority for authorization and authentication data. RBAC leverages role bindings to determine which users and groups can access specific resources and what actions can be performed within those resources (roles). RBAC is empowered on the Kafka cluster by way of Confluent Server. Confluent Server is a fully compatible Kafka broker which integrates commercial security features like RBAC.

The list of items is pretty straightforward with no major surprises.

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TDE and Managed Instances

Tim Radney notes a change to the way new Azure SQL Database Managed Instance databases are configured:

Another recent change is that all newly created databases have “Encryption Enabled” set to True. This enables Transparent Data Encryption. By default, if you haven’t created your own key, it will use the service-managed key. A bug I’ve found in SSMS is that even though you set “Encryption Enabled” to false, it will still enable TDE. This is not the behavior when using T-SQL.

Read on to understand the ramifications of this change.

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