Proving Your Identity

I caught this article on Dark Reading that talks about the problems of multi-factor authentication. It’s interesting to me as I had written an editorial on passwords and mentioned that I used the fingerprint reader on my laptop. Someone pointed out that my fingerprints are likely all over the machine and could easily be lifted and used to gain access to the machine. That’s true, and it’s something I hadn’t thought of. To me a fingerprint reader is a convenience, but I might need to disable it for travel.

As database professionals, we often rely on some other system to prove a person’s identity. For SQL Server, we typically rely on two common choices: a simple name and password, or some security token from the operating system. Those two have worked well, and since SQL Server 2005, we have also had additional encryption options that can be used to protect data, including the ability to use certificates to protect the keys that encrypt data. SQL Server 2008 also allowed Extensible Key Management, so that third party products could be used to secure data.

As we store more and more data, and this data becomes valuable, it is more and more likely that individuals will try to steal data. While we can’t protect the data from insiders that need legitimate access, we do need to ensure that rights are properly granted and that our security systems have some way to verify the identity of the person or application that connects to SQL Server.

It still feels like that the security mechanisms for SQL Server as a little immature, and the costs of implementing things like EKM are too high. I am hoping that it becomes more practical to implement better security over time, and we get more tools in SQL Server that help administrators manage permissions.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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