Encryption of data at rest

Posted on 2011-03-21
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Some questions about encrypting data at rest. Do you use your database platforms ability to encrypt data at rest? We don’t store credit card details but some of our databases do have bank details like account name and number, sort code etc, and personal details like name, national insurance, date of birth etc.

If you follow all best practice around hardening, i.e. use strong passwords, no default passwords, patch the database and OS of DB server, set appropriate ACL to the server (small amount of trusted administrators only) and server shares etc, do you still have to encrypt data at rest in the database? And if so why?

I can see there’s a threat motive for a naughty insider to potentially steal a load of bank account numbers and sort codes (suspect that alone is not enough to commit fraud), it’s a db server in a large 2003 windows domain (database servers not vlann’ed), so there’s a decent size of threat agents, but as to skill level they’d need, if best practice hardening is in place, passwords aren’t weak, servers are patched etc – then I personally have no idea how they’d actually get in the database (anyone?), the app is an internal app not a web facing etc etc.

So, with best practice hardening in place in the DB environment, is it worth encrypting the data at rest, if yes why and how can they get at that data, if not again why so? If the server was in a private VLAN would that affect the decision? Or should it still be encrypted?

Aside from whether to or not to encrypt data at rest, does encrypting data at rest affect db or application performance, and is there any additional cost directly or indirectly in getting the data at rest encrypted? Or anything else we need to know as to encrypt the data or not?
Question by:pma111
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LVL 15

Accepted Solution

Aaron Shilo earned 125 total points
ID: 35180360

as a dba im asked to harden my system agenst threats from within and out the system (company)
and i allwys have in mind that "NEVER SAY NEVER" and "BETER SAFE THAN SORRY" and
"ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED" that is why i walwys use any means of protection i have.

read more about best practices for security in sql server here:

Author Comment

ID: 35180859
I assume that means you do use database encryption of data at rest?

Do it affect performance in any way, and can it lead to added expense $$ directly or indirectly
LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Aaron Shilo
ID: 35181176
=> I assume that means you do use database encryption of data at rest?

Yes I do When requested to harden a server and save money on thierd party sofware.

=> Do it affect performance in any way, and can it lead to added expense $$ directly or indirectly

yes it does , read this :
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 35181808
Somebody running out the door with your hard drives might make it on your list of worries.  Encryption at rest is nice for that worry.

Author Comment

ID: 35181900
I see what you are saying mastoo but theres a pretty secure data centre to be honest so I think the likelehood there is pretty low but not impossible
LVL 21

Assisted Solution

mastoo earned 125 total points
ID: 35182003
Disgruntled employee carries drives out, or maybe a failed drive gets replaced and it is still readable.  All unlikely but they come up in audits.  But regardless of the risks...

You might find your OS and server hardware already support hardware based encryption (ala bitlocker), which has minimal performance overhead.

Author Comment

ID: 35182039
In our case the data centre is off site and managed by a 3rd party, its pretty secure building retina scanners etc, so it would have to be a disgruntled 3rd party employee. I think its a decent measure for general piece of mind tbh

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