Azure SQL Database Threat Detection

Troy Hunt introduces us to a fantastic new feature with Azure SQL Databases:

Azure has just introduced another tool to help in the fight against SQL injection known as SQL Database Threat Detection. You can go and read all the Microsofty bits there or watch it work in a real live app here.

Firstly, this is threat detection, not prevention. In a nutshell, this feature will tell you when an attack is mounted against your database and in order to do that, the upstream app has to have a vulnerability in it that’s allowing the attack to get that far. Now before you give it a bit of “well that’s pretty useless then”, the main reason this makes sense is that you can go and enable it with a single checkbox tick and it won’t break your things. Plus, even if the code is solid and you have a device or a service like a WAF, this is just one more layer that’s good to have in place. Let’s just jump into it.

This is a useful tool. If you’re using Azure SQL Databases, go forth and activate this.

When CHECKDB Fails

Andy Galbraith has a tale of woe and a cautionary message:

Paul’s blog post “Issues around DBCC CHECKDB and the use of hidden database snapshots” discusses the need to have certain permissions to be able to create the snapshot CHECKDB uses.  I checked the DATA directory and the SQL Server default path and found that the service account did have Full Control to those locations.

What happened next ultimately resolved my issue, and it reflects something I constantly tell people when they ask me how I research things relatively quickly (most of the time anyway :)) – whenever you read a blog post or article about a subject, MAKE SURE TO READ THE FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS!  Sometimes they are nothing beyond “Great Article!” but quite often there are questions and answers between readers and the author that add important extra information to the topic, or just “Don’t Forget This!” style comments that add more detail.

Indeed.

Always Encrypted

Kenneth Nielsen takes a look at Always Encrypted:

The way Microsoft have implemented this always encrypted feature, is to let all the data in the tables be encrypted. The application that needs to look at data will have to use the new Enhanced ADO.net library, which will give your application the methods to de/encrypt data.

This way, the only way to insert data into a table, which contains encrypted columns, is to use parameterized insert statements from your application. It is not even possible to insert data from SQL Server Management Studio, if we try, the statement will fail.

This way we ensure that only the persons using the application will be looking at un-encrypted data, thus reducing the number of people with a direct access to sensitive data.

If you go down this route, it looks like the only method available for modifying data is going through ADO.NET, although that could change later.  My biggest concern here is how much of a performance hit—if any—systems will take.

SQL Server 2016 IFI

Nic Cain has an outstanding blog post on enabling Instant File Initialization in SQL Server 2016, specifically wondering what happens when group policy explicitly prohibits setting Perform Volume Maintenance Tasks privileges:

Much to my surprise the virtual SQL account showed up in the PVMT secpol setting. I had no idea how it got there. Reviewing the setting I was able to confirm that the account I used for install was not able to make any adjustments and yet somehow the permissions were set.

I’m happy to hear why I’m wrong, but I’d consider this a reasonable instance of privilege escalation:  I may not want the DBA to be able to perform volume maintenance tasks on just any server, but I do want him to do it on SQL Server instances.

Back Those Things Up

Brian Krebs reminds us to back up all the things:

The tools for securely backing up computers, Web sites, data, and even entire hard drives have never been more affordable and ubiquitous. So there is zero excuse for not developing and sticking with a good backup strategy, whether you’re a home user or a Web site administrator.

PC World last year published a decent guide for Windows users who wish to take advantage of the the OS’s built-in backup capabilities. I’ve personally used Acronis and Macrium products, and find both do a good job making it easy to back up your rig. The main thing is to get into a habit of doing regular backups.

There are good guides all over the Internet showing users how to securely back up Linux systems (here’s one). Others tutorials are more OS-specific. For example, here’s a sensible backup approach for Debian servers. I’d like to hear from readers about their backup strategies — what works — particularly from those who maintain Linux-based Web servers like Apache and Nginx.

This article doesn’t directly relate to SQL Server, but it does act as a nice reminder:  go make sure you have good backups.  Of everything.

Categories

March 2019
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