The State of Database Security Research

Before we can discuss the state of database security research, we should first define what we mean by the term. In general, when we use the phrase “database security research” we tend to mean research into specific, practical flaws in the security of database systems. We do not mean research into individual security incidents or discussions of marketing-led accreditation or certification efforts. We don't even mean academic research into the underlying abstractions of database security, such as field-, row-, and object-level security, or encryption, or formal protocol security analysis — though the research we are talking about may certainly touch on those subjects. We mean research relating to discoveries of real flaws in real systems.

So with that definition in mind, we will take a brief tour of recent — and not so recent — discoveries, and attempt to classify them appropriately.

Classes of Database Security Flaws

If you read about specific security flaws for any length of time, you begin to see patterns emerge, with very similar bugs being found in entirely different products. In this section, we attempt to classify the majority of known database security issues into the following categories:

  • Unauthenticated Flaws in Network Protocols
  • Authenticated Flaws in Network Protocols
  • Flaws in Authentication Protocols
  • Unauthenticated Access to Functionality
  • Arbitrary Code Execution in Intrinsic SQL Elements
  • Arbitrary Code Execution in Securable ...

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