Part 4: Controlling Data Access and Restricting Privileged Data in Oracle Database

This is the fourth and final excerpt from Chapter 1 of Securing Oracle Database 12c: A Technical Primer ebook, Oracle Press. You can read the complete chapter on controlling data access and restricting privileged data by downloading your own copy. Thanks for reading.

Controlling Privileged Users

System privileges and powerful roles give significant control of the database, including the ability to view all data and make changes to the data. Some administrative users need these powerful privileges for maintenance, tuning, and backups, but they don’t need access to all of the data. Even though the administrative users are trusted, it is important to secure company data assets and personal information even from these privileged accounts in order to prevent unauthorized use by insiders or attackers.

Oracle Database Vault provides several kinds of operational controls within the database including realms, which enforce limits on access to specified objects such as tables and views. After creating a Database Vault realm, objects are added to the realm and database users can be designated as realm participants. This provides access only to the realm participants, and excludes other users, even if they have powerful system privileges like SELECT ANY TABLE that would otherwise allow them to access the objects in the realm.

The following illustration shows an example of two realms, protecting database schemas containing human resources (HR) and finance (FIN) data. Once enabled, the realms prevent privileged administrative users or other application owners from using their elevated privileges to access data. The privileged application owner HR is prevented from accessing data inside the FIN realm, and even an administrator with the DBA role is unable to access data in the HR and FIN realms.

Oracle Database Vault Realms

In addition to regular realms, Oracle Database 12c adds the ability to create mandatory realms. A regular realm will block the use of system privileges such as SELECT ANY TABLE if the user is not a realm participant, but it doesn’t block the schema owner or other users who gain access to the data using object privileges. Mandatory realms prevent access by anyone who is not a realm participant. One popular use for a mandatory realm is to continue to protect sensitive data during patching and upgrades, when an administrator needs to make changes to the application schema but should not have access to the data tables in that schema.

When Oracle Database Vault is configured, a couple of additional users are created. The first of these is the Database Vault owner, who can create and manage realms to control access to sensitive data. The second user is the Database Vault account manager, who has the responsibility for creating users in the database. While a single user could perform both functions, the ability to divide these duties among multiple users allows for separation of duty as described earlier. Furthermore, there is a DVOWNER role that can be granted to other users to delegate the ability to manage Database Vault realms. This role should be granted to administrators who are responsible for the security configuration of the database, rather than the general database administrator.

The following illustration shows the use of the Database Configuration Assistant for enabling Oracle Database Vault. Management of Database Vault requires the use of these specialized users and roles. The SYSDBA administrative privilege cannot be used for realm or user management when Database Vault is enabled.

Oracle Database Vault and Label Security

From the free ebook, Oracle Database 12c: A Technical Primer by Michelle Malcher, Paul Needham, and Scott Rotondo.

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