Databases still open to basic attack
With the constant wailing about security breaches on the Web it's hard to believe there are still folk who do not take it seriously. But database security specialist NGS Software reckons there could be close to half a million databases out there with no firewall protection at all.
An NGS survey this week estimates 368,000 Microsoft SQL Server and 124,000 Oracle databases are vulnerable to various levels of attack.
The survey used software to randomly sample 1.16 million IP addresses and test whether there were "directly accessible" - or unprotected - database servers present. If it found one, it checked the type and version and recorded the data. The survey found 157 SQL Servers and 53 Oracle servers. The final figures were arrived at through a process of extrapolation based on the total number of IP addresses (2.71 billion).
Survey author David Litchfield acknowledges that the approach may not be accurate - but reckons that it is "accurate enough."
The results of this year's survey are compared with a similar survey in 2005. But it used a different sampling approach so it is difficult draw any real conclusions.
At face value, the number of "at risk" Microsoft SQL Servers has increased - from 210,000 in 2005, while the number of vulnerable Oracle servers has decreased from 140,000. This suggests SQL Server users are becoming more lax about security and Oracle users are showing some signs of improvement.
Other observations? One is that SQL Server users tend to wait for service pack (SP) fixes rather than use "hot" fixes to patch their systems. Only eight out of 129 showed evidence of interim fixes with the rest on RTM or versions of SP 3 to 4.
Another interesting revelation was that those running vulnerable versions of Oracle were evenly divided between Windows and Linux/Solaris - suggesting Windows installations are no worse at security than those using other operating systems.
Despite the apparent risks highlighted by NGS, a majority of companies are supposedly happy about their level of protection. A database security survey - sponsored by Application Security, conducted by Ponemon published in June - found 68 per cent of respondents feel, overall, they are managing their database security effectively. Just 15 per cent saw upgrading database security as a priority.®
I was wondering if I was the only one that remembered (or would admit to remembering) SQL Slammer. Good to see I'm not.
Wrt statistics+extrapolation: actually this is one of the better uses of extrapolation you'll find. Typically a pollster takes a tiny sample and then extrapolates up to the whole population. What they don't tell you is that their tiny sample has to be "adjusted" for bias and (un)representativeness, but in order to do that adjustment they *have to* know exactly how (un)representative and biased their small sample is. Which they can't, because they've never asked a truly significant proportion of the whole population.
So the pollsters take a wild guess at how well their sample represents the whole population, and hope no one notices or cares. It's mostly worked so far, or at least they've kept it quiet so far?
In the case of a small population of IP addresses vs the global population; yes I'm sure there may be some bias in there, but it'll likely be a lot less bias than in (say) a political opinion poll, where you have to "correct" for sampling errors but you can only meaningfully do that if you know how the broader population is thinking.
What they did was illegal
Port scanning without permission is prosecutable under the Computer Misuse Act regardless of how well-intended their 'survey' is. Next time I think about hacking I'll be sure to release some statistics to cover my arse!
It ought not to be, in fact later versions will even you force you to jump through hoops to make this happen during an install.
Still, it's by far the most common Admin login tuple I've come across on SQL server installs. Including some really big uns.