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Category: Security

Data Lake File Formats and Security

Ashish Kumar and Jorge Villamariona continue a series on data lakes:

People from a traditional RDBMS background are often surprised at the extraordinary amount of control that data lake architects have over how datasets can be stored. Data Lake Architects, as opposed to the Relational Database Administrators, get to determine an array of elements such as file sizes, type of storage (row vs. columnar), degrees of compression, indexing, schemas, and block sizes. These are related to the big data oriented ecosystem of formats commonly used for storing and accessing information in a data lake.

It is a bit of a different world and it comes with trade-offs. The whole thing is worth reading.

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Features for Securing Data in SQL Server

Jonathan Kehayias gives us a set of features we can use to secure data in SQL Server:

Recently I have been having quite a few discussions around security of data inside of SQL Server and how to prevent the massive data breaches that we have been hearing about on the news.  Like most things some people want “THE ANSWER” or THE SOLUTION to securing the data inside of SQL Server. Unfortunately there isn’t a single solution that solves all of the problems that are potentially out there.  Security of data requires defense in depth, starting with a secure configuration and installation of SQL Server.  Often times, defense in depth also means changes to the database, the application, and how you do business.

Also read the comments to understand why Dynamic Data Masking and Row-Level Security aren’t really security features. I totally agree that Dynamic Data Masking is not a security feature; Row-Level Security I’d argue is, but is quite limited in its scope, much more so than any of the features Jonathan lists.

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Managed Identity with Azure Functions

Taiob Ali shows how you can safely store credentials which your Azure Function apps need:

With the announcement of Powershell support in Azure Functions, it has become easier for data professionals to use functions to manage cloud resources such as Azure SQL Database, Managed Instances. A common challenge when using functions is how to manage the credentials in function code for authenticating databases. Keeping the credentials secure is an important task. Ideally, the credentials should never appear in the code or in the source control.

Manged Identity can solve this problem as Azure SQL Database and Managed Instance both support Azure AD authentication. You can read mode about Managed Identity here.

In this article, I will show how to set up Azure Function App to use Managed Identity to authenticate functions against Azure SQL Database.

The example connects Azure SQL DB, but this is a general-purpose solution.

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Auditing Login Events Using Service Broker

Max Vernon takes us through using Service Broker to audit login events:

Logging to the SQL Server Error Log or the Windows Security Event Log means you’ll need some kind of tool to slice-and-dice the data, postmortem. It’s difficult to respond to events as they happen with this kind of auditing, and hard to create simple T-SQL queries to inspect the data. You could create a login trigger at the server level, but that will only allow you to capture successful logins. Coding the trigger incorrectly can result in everyone being locked out of the server. You’ll need to use the Dedicated Administrator Connection, otherwise known as the DAC, to login to the server and disable the errant trigger. Not fun.

Luckily, there is a much better option; using SQL Server’s built-in Event Notification service to receive login events through Service Broker. This event stream is asynchronous to the login process, meaning it won’t interrupt or slow down the login process, and it allows you to capture both successful and failed logins to a table, either locally or remotely. For larger SQL Server infrastructures, it’s not uncommon to setup a single SQL Server instance to gather this information for central analysis.

This blog post shows how to setup a database locally for auditing login events via SQL Server Event Notifications and Service Broker.

Click through for a script-heavy post which helps you all the way through the process.

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Using ACLs to Secure Azure Data Lake Data

Matthew Roche takes us through access control lists (ACLs) in Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 and how they apply to Power BI:

Earlier this week I received a question from a customer on how to get Power BI to work with data in ADLSg2 that is  secured using ACLs. I didn’t know the answer, but I knew who would know, and I looped in Ben Sack from the dataflows team.Ben answered the customer’s questions and unblocked their efforts, and he said that I could turn them into a blog post. Thank you, Ben!

Read on for the answer.

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sqlcmd and Complex Passwords

Randolph West hits one of my bugbears with respect to the Windows command shell:

Using accepted good practice, the password and script were escaped with double quotes. (note that instancepassword and database are the replacement values in question):

sqlcmd -S instance -U maintenanceUser -P "password" -Q "dbcc checkdb ('database') with DATA_PURITY, NO_INFOMSGS;"

Unfortunately, one of the passwords started with a double quotation mark which led to the command failing for one specific Express Edition instance.

Read on to see the mess as well as a way to extricate yourself from the mess.

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Delegating Authentication using Managed Service Accounts

Jamie Wick helps us solve the classic Kerberos double-hop problem:

If the Report Server service doesn’t have permission to delegate to the SQL Server, it will try to connect anonymously (step 4 in the diagram above). Which results in this login error:

Login failed for user ‘NT AUTHORITY\ANONYMOUS LOGON’. Reason: Could not find a login matching the name provided. [CLIENT: <Client IP Address>]

Historically report server and SQL server services, that needed the ability to delegate authentication to other servers, were configured to run using an Active Directory user account. Enabling delegation on these accounts was simply a matter of setting the Trust level on the Delegation tab of the account’s properties (with Active Directory Users & Computers).

But Jamie is here to show us a better way.

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Generating an Email List from Active Directory Users

James Livingston takes us through an interesting solution to a common problem:

If you’ve ever performed some impactful maintenance on a SQL Server, you probably notified users. If you’re great at documentation and already know exactly who to contact, this script isn’t for you. If you don’t have a user email list, this script will create it for you!

I used to manage 500 SQL Server instances and there was daily maintenance\changes going on constantly. I wrote this PowerShell script to automatically create an email list for me. This PowerShell script gathers the login information from an instance of SQL Server and then pulls their email address from Active Directory.

Read on to see the script in action.

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