In the pantheon of open source heavyweights, few technologies are as ubiquitous as the MySQL RDBMS. Integral to popular software packages like WordPress and server stacks like LAMP, MySQL serves as the foundational data platform for a vast majority of websites and cloud services on the internet today. Unfortunately, its popularity translates to more commonly known attack vectors and security exploits —the following are 11 ways to shore up MySQL security and protect your data more effectively.

11 Ways to Improve MySQL Security

1. Drop the Test Database

The test database installed by the MySQL Server package as part of the mysql_install_db process can be fully accessed by all users by default, making it a common target for attackers. It should therefore be removed during post-installation hardening.

2. Remove All Anonymous Accounts

MySQL by default creates several anonymous users that essentially serve no purpose after installation. These accounts should therefore be removed, as their presence on the system give attackers an entry point in the database.

3. Change Default Port Mappings

MySQL by default runs on port 3306. This should be changed after installation to obfuscate what critical services are running on which ports, as attackers will initially attempt to exploit default values.

4. Alter Which Hosts Have Access to MySQL

If set up as a standalone server, (i.e., if application and web servers query the database from another server) the MySQL instance should be configured to only allow access to permitted hosts. This can be accomplished by making the appropriate changes in the hosts.deny and hosts.allow files.

5. Do Not Run MySQL With Root Level Privileges

MySQL should be run under a specific, newly-created user account with the necessary permissions to run the service, as opposed to directly as the root user. This adds some auditing and logging benefits while preventing attackers from gaining access by hijacking the root user account.

6. Remove and Disable the MySQL History File

Like the Test database, the MySQL history file located at ~/.mysql_history is created by default during installation. This file should be deleted, as it contains historical details regarding installation and configuration steps performed. This could potentially result in the inadvertent exposure of passwords for critical database users. Additionally, a soft link for .mysql_history file to the null device should be created to stop logging to file.

7. Disable Remote Logins

If the MySQL database is only used by local applications, remote access to the server should be disabled. This is done by opening up the /etc/my.cnf file and adding a skip-networking entry under the [mysqld] section. Configuring MySQL to stop listening on all TCP/IP ports including will effectively restrict database access to local, MySQL socket-based communications.

8. Limit or Disable SHOW DATABASES

Again, stripping remote attackers of their information gathering capabilities is critical to a secure security posture. For this reason, the SHOW DATABASES command should be limited or removed entirely by adding skip-show-database to the [mysqld] section of the MySQL configuration file at /etc/my.cnf.

9. Disable the Use of LOAD DATA LOCAL INFILE Command

The LOAD DATA LOCAL INFILE command allows users to read local files and even access other files on the operating system, which could be exploited by attackers using methods such as SQL injection. The command should therefore be disabled by inserting set-variable=local-infile=0 to the [mysqld] section of my.cnf.

10. Obfuscate the Root Account

Changing the mysql root user account to a hard-to-guess name adds another layer of security, as attackers must determine the new account name before attempting to brute force the password values.

11. Set the Proper File Permissions

Make sure that my.cnf is only root writable. Also, be sure that the default location for data at /usr/local/mysql/data is properly secured with the appropriate permissions.

These are just 11 out of a myriad of hardening tasks for a more secure MySQL deployment. Looking for a way to perform these checks and more automatically across your whole MySQL environment? ScriptRock can automatically monitor your infrastructure for deviations from policy, alerting you on an ongoing basis if any vulnerabilities or security gaps are detected. Give it a test drive—it’s free for up to 10 nodes.


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