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SQL Server Security Basics & Tools

SQL Server Security Basics & Tools

SQL Server is the backbone of many databases for small businesses and enterprises. Unfortunately, this makes SQL Server a prime target for cybercriminals.

In this article, we'll cover some basic steps you can take to secure your SQL environment, as well as discuss some tools you can use to easily manage and audit your SQL Server.

Here is a list of our top four SQL Server security monitoring tools:

SolarWinds Security Event Manager - Free Trial This package is a log manager and SIEM tool and provides threat scanning based on search logs from operating systems and applications, such as SQL Server. It runs on Windows Server and is available for a 30-day free trial.

SolarWinds SQL Sentry is a dedicated performance monitor for SQL Server and Azure SQL and can be used to identify anomalous activity. It works on Windows Server and Windows.

SolarWinds Packaged Database Performance Analyzer is a competitor to SQL Sentry and provides compatibility with a longer list of database management systems. Runs on Windows servers.

SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor is a SaaS platform for analyzing database performance and also provides database management functionality.

SQL Server Security Basics

Poorly secured database servers are often the cause of data breaches. Organizations need Microsoft SQL Server, but it can also be difficult to learn and set up. Here are some important SQL Server security basics that you should know to secure your server data.

SQL Server Authentication vs SQL Server Authentication Windows Authentication

Windows authentication, where users must authenticate themselves first before connecting to SQL Server, uses Active Directory (AD) for authentication. This is the recommended authentication mode because AD is the most effective method for managing password restrictions and user and group access to applications in a Windows environment.

The database server is the backend for SQL Server authentication. This can be used if Active Directory is not available.

Windows authentication can be used with SQL Server (mixed mode). We recommend using Windows authentication whenever possible.

Because hackers often target these accounts, you should change or update the password for the same account periodically if you need to use SQL Server authentication. The ALTER LOGIN Transact-SQL (T-SQL) command or the SQL Server Management Studio service can be used to manage SQL Server accounts, such as (if enabled).

Role and login to the server

User login and server login are two types of SQL login that you can create, regardless of the authentication method you use. In the next section, we will discuss user login.

Users can log into the SQL Server installation using their actual login credentials. Each server account is assigned a set of server roles to perform certain activities on the instance. All server logins are assigned the Global Server role, which grants limited access to the instance, by default. Database Creator and Server Administrator are additional roles that can be assigned.

You can also create a server login using SQL Server Management Studio or T-SQL. To set up a virtual database, you must first select the database that will be used as the default database. Each server login has its own default database entry.

User login and server login do not have to be the same. Unless the role assigned to the login grants access to all databases, the login server will be denied access to the default database. You can assign a server login to a specific database user if you so choose when creating it.

Users, schemas, and roles in a database

When creating a new user login, you must specify the following information: database, user name, and default schema. If no other schema is provided, all user-created objects will use the default schema.

Schema names are not required in T-SQL instructions because database schemas are semantically different from other database objects.

When you create a user-defined object, Microsoft Schema is used by default. The system schema is the default schema that contains system elements.

User logins to the database are assigned in the same way as server roles. Database roles on the server include public, database access administrator, database owner, and database security administrator.

Permits and insurance

You can assign one or more securable roles instead of the server or database roles if you don't want to give users too much or too little access. Secure are SQL Server resources that can be accessed by the server and logged in users at the server, schema, and database levels.

Secureable allows you to grant server login access to a table or function without granting login access to the connection.

Only users with permissions can access SQL Server. Some people are allowed or blocked to access or change data using permissions. GRANT, DENY, and REVOKE are T-SQL statements that can be used to set permissions.

The biggest problem with permissions is that they are difficult to manage. When you grant DENY security privileges, permission properties are not passed to lower-level objects. Object-level denying cannot withstand column-level granting, so column access granting overrides table denying.

Since this may be difficult to understand, double-checking permissions using T-SQL is always a smart idea. The "Employees" table is a good example of an object that JoeB can access.

Data encryption

SQL Server has several encryption options. Like Internet traffic between a browser and a connected server, SSL protects data as it moves between the server and client applications. Users can also authenticate the server's identity using its certificate.

TDE encrypts data stored on your computer's hard drive. It encrypts all data and log files, in particular. Enabling TDE does not require any modifications to the client application.

Backup encryption, such as TDE, encrypts SQL backups of the current data and log files.

This type of data encryption ensures that database information is protected from unauthorized access by encrypting each column and cell individually. Decrypting encrypted data is handled through a procedure that requires updating the client software.

There is no need to make changes to the client application to always enable encryption; Data is encrypted across the network, in memory and on disk. It also protects sensitive information from the curiosity of SQL Server administrators. Because SQL Server cannot access encrypted data, indexing and various functions will not work.

Class level security

Businesses can use row-level security (RLS) to limit who can access database rows that contain critical data. For example, allowing users to see only rows that contain information about their customers.

RLS has three main components:

  • Predicate function
  • Security predicate
  • Security policy

The parent function determines whether a record can be accessed by users running database queries. For example, the username of the user running the query can be compared to a field in one of the row columns.

You can filter data silently without raising an alert or blocking with an exception if you weren't granted access to the row as part of the job. Security policies also protect table-related functionality.

Continuous monitoring

Even if you do everything correctly, your SQL Server may be attacked. Finally, install continuous monitoring software to help detect and fix problems as quickly as possible.

Protection against injection

Use security tools to scan event logs and computer systems for SQL injection in your database programs. When developing protection against SQL injection, consider using stored procedures.

This action rejects malicious SQL queries and does not provide any useful information to the attacker because it only accepts certain types of code and requires certain arguments.

Update regularly

One mistake is forgetting to update SQL Server tools and applications. You won't get the latest security enhancements if you don't update your SQL Server tools and applications.

Maintain a regular patch schedule so you don't have to stop production until there's enough time to fix or upgrade the development environment.

Safe recommendation

Since a data center outage can impact your backup and operational databases, you should use the same security measures. Therefore, you should follow the same process as for backups, such as limiting access and using security precautions.

Controlling who can access your backups is important, but ensuring that the data storage where your backups are stored is secure – and as a result, look for software that can protect your SQL backups.

Some cloud-based backup services provide easy-to-use central dashboards and fast, secure cloud-based storage. This software can securely store and republish data on servers, workstations and documents.

SyncBackSE can also be used as a data protection system for servers. It can manage backup and recovery for hundreds or thousands of customer sites, ensuring server data remains safely stored and protected.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you. N-able Cove Data Protection protects your SQL Server data by storing it in the cloud. Additionally, you will be able to restore your device quickly.

N-able Cove Data Protection is an excellent choice for MSPs because it improves security while making backups simpler.

The simplicity of SQL Server

Every element of your business should be as simple as possible. There's no point adding additional functionality or applications unless they are truly useful to your workflow.

You can significantly reduce the chances of your server being hacked by removing unnecessary programs or functions. Instead of leveraging a real production environment when developing, testing, and testing new features, you can leverage a build or test environment.

Make sure to turn off the SQL Server Browser when running a regular SQL Server instance. If left enabled, the server browser allows IT staff and authorized users to discover database instances on the network. However, it also gives attackers access to your SQL Server resources if these resources are not properly deleted.