Self-managed cloud databases can present a number of technical risks that companies need to be aware of and address in order to ensure the security and compliance of their data. In this conceptual article, we will go over what self-managed databases are and how they can create risk to your organization. We will also cover some practical considerations one should make to reduce their risks when working with self-managed databases.
The first clue is in the name. Self-managed refers to when you host and manage a database on a virtual server that remains under your control and within your own cloud. If you use a managed database, you don’t need to manually download, install, update, configure, or back up the database; the cloud provider facilitates all of that. You can still modify parameters that instruct the database how to run (collation, cursors, connections, etc.) and control decisions such as whether to install new releases and how long to retain backups. By self-managing, you oversee the administration and maintenance of your OS, runtime environment, database software, installations, and configurations. The user experience is similar to running on-prem, without cloud server staples like physical storage and virtual networking.
While many still prefer to leverage native storage capabilities, factoring in complex architectures, migration phases, and research environments often lead them to self-manage in order to easily scale and reduce operational overhead. Overall, self-managed databases can be a good choice for use cases that need a high degree of control and customization over their databases, or that have unique or specialized data management needs.
The most common need for self-managing takes place when trying to "lift and shift" to the cloud without having to rewrite any code to support native data storage technologies.
Though mandatory security and compliance requirements remain the same for datastores (regardless of how and where they are hosted), often it is currently much harder to achieve a coherent and compliant state across self-managed cloud datastores and at the same level with native data solutions. Many experience friction between remaining operational and maintaining a high standard of data security posture management (DSPM).
DSPM requires a holistic approach that can satisfy the needs of both security and DevSecOps teams, regardless of the tech, architecture, or deployment-type involved. Below are some of the functions this kind of approach entails:
Though discovering a self-managed data store is similar to identifying a server on-prem, it is far more challenging in the cloud. Nowadays, users can easily create, copy, or move compute instances and datastores, leaving security teams unable to track them.
Specifically, security teams have trouble tracking all virtual nodes and volumes across multiple accounts and environments, and contextualizing databases, their state, and data types. Identifying and locating self-managed datastores within a cloud environment can be challenging due to the complexity of the environment and the number of virtual nodes that may be present. This task requires a deep understanding of the organization's cloud infrastructure, including knowledge of the virtual nodes, databases, ownership, data types, states, security controls, and role-based access controls (RBAC). It may require specialized tools or expertise to effectively identify and locate all of the self-managed datastores within the organization's cloud environment.
It is often easier for bad actors to gain access to databases through virtual nodes than through more direct means. The result is wider attack surface and larger mandates to keep database surroundings secure and compliant.
Self-managed database maintenance is not a simple task, thanks to sheer environment scale, availability of KPIs, and data residency. Security and compliance teams invest a lot of resources and time in database updates, storage management, system-level encryption, region deployments, scaling, and backup solutions.
Unlike native cloud solutions with easy API access, self-managed databases lack simple and efficient tools to enforce various requirements and policies. Instead, they require their own types of integrations to monitor and ensure desired security and compliance.
For example on-prem, spinning off a new DB instance using legacy methods requires a tedious process of approvals and engagements to make the appropriate infrastructure available. Or, consider how on-prem compliance boundaries are built upon infrastructure, controls and assumptions that do not immediately translate into the cloud, often leading to insufficient knowledge and visibility into the actual state and risks once digital transformation has completed.
Finding and tracking self-managed data stores in a cloud environment is easy with a DSPM solution. Security teams can easily track all virtual nodes and volumes across multiple accounts and environments, and contextualizing databases, the databases state, and data types. Identifying and locating self-managed datastores within a cloud environment helps with the complexity of the environment and the number of virtual nodes that may be present. This task provides a deep understanding of the organization's cloud infrastructure, including knowledge of the virtual nodes, databases, ownership, data types, states, security controls, and role-based access controls (RBAC).
DSPM is agnostic, making it easy for you to work with different types of data, such as managed databases, self-managed databases, object storage, and DBaaS. Providing a unified security framework across multiple cloud environments, allows organizations to use the cloud provider and services that best fit their needs without having to worry about compatibility issues. Additionally, it allows organizations to easily switch between cloud services, expand and use additional technologies, or expand to other clouds in the future without having to completely rebuild their security infrastructure.
DSPM does not require a massive change in your tech stack or architecture.Harness the power of the cloud for your organization through DSPM. Utilize native and point solutions to streamline your control plane and maximize your security posture.
As we learned above, virtual nodes, or virtual servers, in cloud environments provide a direct means for bad actors to gain access to databases, expanding the attack surface. To counter this, it is important to implement a comprehensive security strategy that includes a combination of OS patching and hardening, network and access policies, audit and monitoring. By implementing these best practices, organizations can reduce the risk of bad actors gaining access to virtual nodes and databases, and help to protect their sensitive data.
Organizations can easily connect and scan data across multiple sources, giving them a centralized view of all of their data. This includes tracking cloud and Identity Providers (IDP) accounts as well as local accounts. With this, you’ll gain complete visibility across your data landscape.
DSPMs provide a wide range of benefits across multiple teams, while ensuring that business continuity and data resilience is not hindered. Security teams can understand where data is, the type of data it is, learn who and what can access it, and keep it continuously secure with a centralized data security platform.
Engineers can have shared ownership around the security posture of the data stores they maintain, enabling them to responsibly leverage any cloud data store without constraints. This leads to an increase in efficiency and flexibility in the use of cloud data stores, potentially resulting in an increase in performance for the organization without an increase in risk.
Privacy, risk, compliance, and security teams can manage a single dynamic dashboard of policy requirements. Having a single dynamic dashboard allows the teams to view real-time data and analytics on their policies, which can help them to identify and address any potential issues more quickly. Additionally, it can also provide an easy-to-use interface for any team member, allowing them to quickly access the information they need. Overall this can help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the privacy, risk, compliance, and security teams, while also reducing the risk of non-compliance and data breaches.
Self-managed database security and compliance doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right tools, security teams can easily reduce the overhead of manual/semi-manual tracking and monitoring they currently entail. By leveraging additional sets of controls to ensure a continuous compliant state of hosting platforms and configurations, they can step up their organizational best practices to achieve technology-agnosticism.
To take your organization's security practices to the next level, consider implementing a DSPM solution. Learn more about DSPM and how it can benefit your organization by contacting our team.