By Robert McMillan
IDG news service
14 November 2007
A half a million database servers are without any firewall protection
according to security researcher David Litchfield.
NGSSoftware managing director, Litchfield took a look at just over 1
million randomly generated Internet Protocol [IP] addresses, checking
them to see if he could access them on the IP ports reserved for
Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle's database. The results? He found 157 SQL
servers and 53 Oracle servers. Litchfield then relied on known estimates
of the number of systems on the Internet to arrive at his conclusion:
"There are approximately 368,000 Microsoft SQl Servers... and about
124,000 Oracle database servers directly accessible on the Internet," he
wrote in his report, due to be made public next week.
This is not the first time that Litchfield has conducted this type of
research. Two years ago, he released his first Database Exposure Survey,
estimating that there were about 350,000 Microsoft and Oracle databases
This 2007 version of the Database Exposure Survey is set to be published
Monday on Litchfield's Database Security website.
With no firewall, databases are exposed to hackers, putting corporate
data at risk. Litchfield said that, given the amount of press generated
by corporate data breaches over the past two years, it's amazing to find
that there are more databases exposed than ever before. "I think it's
terrible," he said. "We all run around like headless chickens following
these data breach headlines... organisations out there really don't
care. Why are all these sites hanging out there without the protection
of a firewall?"
This year's Oracle tally is actually down from Litchfield's 2005
estimate, which counted 140,000 Oracle systems. That same study placed
the SQL server total at 210,000.
The security researcher wasn't sure why Oracle's numbers had declined
while Microsoft's had risen. "Microsoft's technology is certainly easier
to install. Maybe the increase in SQL server numbers is simply a
function of that," he said.
In the 2005 survey, Litchfield found an even larger number of the
open-source MySQL databases outside of the firewall. The 2007 survey
does not count MySQL, however.
There was one other disturbing finding in Litchfield's 2007 survey: Many
of these unprotected databases are also unpatched. In fact, 4 percent of
the SQL Server databases Litchfield found were still vulnerable to the
flaw that was exploited by 2003's widespread SQL Slammer worm. "People
aren't protecting themselves with firewalls and the patch levels are
atrocious," he said.
About 82 percent of the SQL Servers were running older SQL Server 2000
software, and fewer than half of those had the product's latest Service
Pack updates installed. On the Oracle side, 13 percent of the servers
were running older versions of the database that no longer receive
patches. These Oracle 9.0 and earlier databases are known to have
security vulnerabilities, Litchfield said.
Litchfield, who wrote the proof of concept code that was eventually used
by Slammer, said that this many unsecured databases is enough to sustain
another worm outbreak. "There's certainly potential there," he said. "So
the question is what's the likelihood? [That's] much more difficult to
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