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How can I encrypt SQL Server Authentication credentials?

Posted on 2007-12-06
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Last Modified: 2008-03-07
We have a SQL Server 2005 server which is not part of a domain. We want to use SQL Server Authentication in order to connect to this server, but want the login credentials to be encrypted when the connection attempts to the servers are made so that no one can sniff out the credentials. Using Windows Authentication is not an option at all.

This is a highly sensitive server and we want to ensure that no one will be able to sniff out the login credentials as a user attempts to connect to the SQL Server, this is why we need to be able to encrypt the credentials as the connection attempt is made.
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Question by:nyphalanx
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by:Chris Mangus
ID: 20423693
How are you accessing the server?  Perhaps SSL is your answer.
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by:ptjcb
ID: 20423698
The issue that you have is that SQL Authentication uses a hash, not encryption, for passwords.

FROM http://blogs.msdn.com/lcris/archive/2007/04/30/sql-server-2005-about-login-password-hashes.aspx

When a login occurs, the password submitted by the user is hashed and compared to the stored hash - if they match, the password is accepted and the login succeeds.

You can encrypt the connection string

http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms998300.aspx

To help make sure that the SQL account credentials remain confidential, you should encrypt the connection string in the Web.config file. To do so, you use the Aspnet_regiis utility with either the Windows Data Protection API (DPAPI) or RSA protected configuration providers.
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by:Chris Mangus
ID: 20423701
BOL has a topic on it at:  ms-help://MS.SQLCC.v9/MS.SQLSVR.v9.en/udb9/html/e1e55519-97ec-4404-81ef-881da3b42006.htm
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by:nyphalanx
ID: 20428616
I'm not concerned about having the connection string encrypted inside my web.config or any other type of configuration file. I just want to be sure that it is not in plain text as the connection is made accross the network. Reading ptjcb's reply SQL Authentication uses a hash? So does this mean that as the connection is made to SQL Server that the login credentials are not sent accross in plain text, is this the default behavior?
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Chris Mangus earned 250 total points
ID: 20428907
Yes, it does use a hash.  However, that doesn't give you real security.  For instance, I can brute force hack a hashed password using the undocumented PWDCOMPARE function.  

You really need an encrypted pipe between your application server and your database server if you want real security.
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by:ptjcb
ID: 20430135
How are you making the connection across the network? Is this an internal network or is it connected using the Web? Are you using SSL, ASP.NET?

The default login credentials are in plain text.

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Author Comment

by:nyphalanx
ID: 20430156
It is an internal network, and we're just using a VBA excel program to make our database connections. We just want to make sure that even though we're using SQL Server authentication that the password is not sent accross the network in plain text.
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by:ptjcb
ID: 20430219
Just from your description, I would say that, yes, you are sending the connection information across as plain text.

Are you using ODBC? SQL Server Native connection? Are you using a connection string? How is the Excel program accessing the server?

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