A brief introduction
At Stormatics, we believe a database that is secure, highly available, and compliant with industry regulations is the backbone of any business looking to prosper. PostgreSQL offers robust security features and ensures that a user’s database is protected from all angles.
As new malware develops and hackers become more and more sophisticated, your database’s security needs to be constantly improved. In this beginner’s guide, we will go through the best practices used to harden your PostgreSQL database security.
Keeping your database up to date
Keeping your database up to date with the latest PostgreSQL release is vital in maintaining the security of your database. Once every year, PostgreSQL comes out with a new release, which includes new features, security enhancements, and performance improvements. Each major release is supported for five years, during which PostgreSQL releases quarterly minor updates to fix bugs and patch security issues. The schedule for new updates and more information is given on PostgreSQL’s website, at https://www.postgresql.org/developer/roadmap/.
If the user does not always keep their database up to date with the latest release, they will miss out on new security advancements, as well as any security patches introduced in the minor releases. It is recommended by PostgreSQL experts that a user should always try to update to the latest minor release of whichever major version they are using.
Moreover, vulnerabilities in the older software are publicly available, and any database that is not up to date can become easy targets for individuals or groups with malicious intent. They can exploit less advanced, older software to gain unauthorized access to the user’s sensitive data.
Strong passwords can be considered low-hanging fruit in the realm of database security. This is because the concept of strong passwords is easy to understand, and they can be very efficient in the prevention of unauthorized access.
A strong password should contain a complex combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and other characters. Users should keep strong passwords and also implement password policies. Password policies include enforcing password complexity and the frequency at which to change them. This can prove to be a failsafe way to prevent unauthorized access.
PostgreSQL provides an extension, called credcheck, which helps users enforce password policies. The administrator can set some requirements for a password, and if these are not met, credcheck will deny the password. You can find more information here: https://github.com/MigOpsRepos/credcheck.
Encrypting your data
Encryption of data is another effective best practice. The objective of encryption is to protect your data by transforming it to cipher-text and making it completely unreadable to an unauthorized individual. Only authorized personnel, personnel with the ‘key’, will be able to decipher this text. This will ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your database.
There are two aspects of data encryption, the first being the encryption of data at rest. This data in PostgreSQL is typically encrypted using pgcrypto. Pgcrypto’s advanced capabilities ensure that users’ sensitive data becomes completely unreadable to an unauthorized individual. Pgcrypto’s hashing functions ensure that user credentials remain safe even in the event of a security breach. As a result, all aspects of a database are encrypted and hence protected from unauthorized individuals. Click here to learn more about pgcrypto: https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/pgcrypto.html.
The other aspect of data encryption is the encryption of data in motion, that is, data traveling from server to user and back. More common cryptographic protocols, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are used. By enabling SSL/TLS, data is encrypted before being sent over, and only a receiver with a valid decryption key will be able to decrypt the data. TLS is a more modern successor for SSL, and when enabled in a PostgreSQL database, ensures that data, login credentials, and other sensitive information are encrypted during transmission. To learn more about TLS and its uses, check out this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security.
Access control and monitoring activity
Another best practice for preventing security breaches and unauthorized access is to control who has access to the database and how much access they have. Users should also always monitor the activities on their database.
Admins can control who has access to their database, and what privileges they have. PostgreSQL employees RBAC, Role Based Access Control, allowing administrators to assign ‘privileges’ to users. They can give their users only enough access to complete their given task. One can restrict access to the entire database, which reduces risks of one’s own employees ‘spying’ on data to which they have no relation. To learn more about roles in PostgreSQL, click here: https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/user-manag.html.
Actively monitoring one’s database is crucial in detecting and taking action against potential unauthorized access or security breach. PostgreSQL has a variety of features that help a user capture and log various different events, such as login attempts, queries, and modifications. Users should frequently analyze these logs, and employees should also be trained to recognize and report any suspicious behavior. This can help identify suspicious activities so timely action can be taken.
Pgaudit is a PostgreSQL extension that provides detailed logging and monitoring of database activity and helps to track user activity on the database. By enabling this extension, database administrators can gain insight into user interactions, queries, attempted changes to data, and failed and successful login attempts. The analysis provided by pgaudit can help identify potential security threats, and ensure that timely action is taken. Learn more about pgaudit at https://pgaudit.org.
Implementing firewalls and other intrusion prevention systems
Firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems, IPS, are essential components of a secure PostgreSQL database. Firewalls act as a first line of defense and filter out unwanted traffic based on predefined rules. IPSs go beyond firewalls and actively analyze traffic patterns and behavior to detect and block unwanted activity.
Firewalls are more network related and act as a barrier between an internal network and the rest of the internet. To implement a firewall, an administrator sets up rules and policies, defining different types of unwanted activity and users. The firewall will then filter out all traffic based on these rules, also blocking any security threats. Firewalls can also help keep out excess traffic that can result in the database/website crashing.
Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) are usually implemented to complement firewalls. They monitor and analyze traffic, identifying and blocking potential security threats in real-time. PgBadger, an overall handy tool that logs activities on a database, can be used as an IPS. PgBadger collects log data from a database and interprets it to identify potential security threats. To learn more about pgBadger, visit https://github.com/darold/pgbadger.
By implementing a combination of firewall and IPS extensions, users can add another layer of security, making their PostgreSQL database’s security robust and impenetrable. This ensures the confidentiality and integrity of the database, hence ensuring the client’s and user’s confidence.
Secure, off-site backups
Best practices dictate that users should always keep off-site backups of their data, as it ensures uninterrupted operations in case of any kind of damage to the primary store of data. The flip side of backups is that they have to be just as secure as the primary store, or else they become an easy target for those with malicious intent. Users should employ all the best practices mentioned in this blog on their backups as well to ensure their database remains safe from all angles.
Users can make use of some tools offered by PostgreSQL, such as pgBackRest. PgBackRest supports multiple storage options, including cloud storage, which ensures backups are kept off-site securely. Check out pgBackRest’s official website to learn more about its features, at https://pgbackrest.org/.
Performing regular security audits
Another crucial aspect of maintaining a robust and secure PostgreSQL database is performing regular security audits. These will give you a profound understanding of where your database stands, security-wise. PostgreSQL experts can conduct an audit of a database, and identify weak points and vulnerabilities within the security of the database. More detail is given on our website, at https://stormatics.tech/service/postgresql-database-security-hardening. Stormatics also offers security audits as a service.
Performing regular security audits is of utmost importance as it can pinpoint overlooked vulnerabilities in your database security. This can prove to be of great benefit, and you can fix any vulnerabilities before malicious players get the chance to exploit them.
In conclusion, understanding and implementing PostgreSQL database security best practices is of utmost importance for safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of your system. By adopting a proactive approach to security, you can minimize the risk of potential breaches, unauthorized access, and data loss. Remember to regularly review your security measures, stay informed about the latest threats, and foster a security-conscious culture within your organization. With a well-secured PostgreSQL database, you can ensure a robust foundation for your data-driven applications and build trust with your users.