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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.®

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

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