Database Monitoring

Arfan Sharif - November 14, 2023

What is database monitoring?

Database monitoring is the continuous tracking of a database’s activities and performance. It is crucial in helping optimize and tune database processes for high performance and reliability. Security is also another key factor to consider when it comes to monitoring databases due to the importance of this data.

Databases serve as a critical backbone for your software applications and systems, and the data stored within them is vital to your organization. Because of this, adding database monitoring to your arsenal of cybersecurity measures is an absolute necessity. Without robust database monitoring, your sensitive data may be vulnerable, and the overall security of your organization may be compromised.

In this article, we’ll look closely at database monitoring, examining the key components involved, common challenges, and how to implement it effectively with the right tools. We’ll begin our examination with a brief overview of why database monitoring is vitally important.

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The importance of database monitoring

Databases store everything from financial records and operational data to personal customer information. If this data is lost, corrupted, or accessed without authorization, the ramifications can be far-reaching. These consequences could include:

  • Damaged company reputation
  • Fines and sanctions due to noncompliance with data protection regulations
  • Significant financial losses

Protecting your databases — and the data within them — is paramount. And doing so begins with an understanding of the common threats to databases. Familiarity with these threats and risks helps shape your defense strategy and security measures. Common database threats include:

  • Data breaches: Unauthorized or insecure access to data, which could lead to data corruption, destruction, or theft.
  • SQL injections: A code-related attack that attempts to manipulate your database, potentially compromising its security or stored data.
  • Insider threats: Unauthorized access or damage to data from individuals within the organization.
  • Malware attacks: Software that is embedded in a database or stored on host machines and used to damage/disable a database or steal data.
  • Denial of service (DoS) attacks: An attempt to make a database unavailable by flooding it with queries or traffic.

Through database monitoring, organizations can detect abnormal performance or unusual patterns of access or activity in their databases. By keeping a constant eye on your databases, you can identify potential performance issues and security breaches. You can also make sure your team is alerted to anomalies and can take immediate action.

Let’s look at the key processes that contribute to effective database monitoring.

Key processes in database monitoring

Database monitoring is made up of a combination of several processes: performance monitoring, security monitoring, and compliance monitoring.

Performance monitoring

Performance monitoring centers around making sure your database is operating at its best. This includes monitoring important parameters, including:

  • Response times
  • Memory usage
  • Error rates

Poor or suboptimal database performance can slow down applications and negatively impact the user experience. It can even be an indicator of a potential security issue.

The timely detection of database performance issues can help you tune your databases for optimal operation, improving system reliability and efficiency.

Security monitoring

Monitoring the security of your database focuses on safeguarding your database from threats. This involves watching for unusual or unauthorized access, modifications to configurations or database schemas, and abnormal querying patterns.

With the rising sophistication of cyber threats, database security monitoring is crucial. Security monitoring can help with the early detection of breaches, giving you a chance to take remedial action before the threat and impact expand. By vigilantly watching for any signs of malicious activity, you can maintain the integrity of your database and protect your data.

Compliance monitoring

Compliance monitoring makes sure your databases operate in alignment with various regulatory standards related to data protection and privacy (such as the GDPR or HIPAA). Unfortunately, many enterprises overlook the aspect of compliance when thinking about database monitoring. However, noncompliance can lead to severe legal and financial ramifications, not to mention damage to an organization’s reputation. By implementing data and database compliance monitoring, you can ensure the lawful handling of data, helping you avoid violations and penalties.

Learn More

Read this blog to learn how the right log management solution delivers the right mix of speed, scale and cost for compliance use cases, regardless of your business type. Blog: Make Compliance a Breeze With Modern Log Management

Common challenges in database monitoring

Though it’s clear that database monitoring is an effective and necessary part of cybersecurity, implementing it is not without its challenges. Here are some of the common obstacles faced during the implementation process:

  • Impact on system performance: The excessive use of profilers, agents, and logging has the potential to slow down your database system, hindering its performance.
  • Handling encrypted data: Many databases contain encrypted data. This presents a unique challenge to monitoring, as encryption can mask both regular operations and suspicious activities.
  • Large data volumes: Many enterprises store and process massive amounts of data. Some database monitoring systems may be overwhelmed by the volume, finding it difficult to identify patterns and detect anomalies.
  • False positives: Genuine threats must be discerned and distinguished from false alarms. When database security monitoring yields too many false positives, this can drain resources or lead to alert fatigue, resulting in actual threats going unnoticed.

How can enterprises overcome these challenges? Let’s consider the tools and techniques that can yield effective database monitoring.

Effective database monitoring tools and techniques

Specialized tools can help simplify the complex task of database monitoring. Among these tools, the most common are database profilers and automated monitoring solutions.

Database profilers

Database profiling tools help you better understand your database’s workload. Profiles track numerous performance metrics, such as:

  • Query execution time
  • CPU usage
  • The number of transactions executed within a certain period

By capturing, tracking, and analyzing this data, profiling tools can identify potential performance bottlenecks or security vulnerabilities. These insights help your team be proactive in tuning databases for performance or hardening your security.

Automated monitoring solutions

Automated monitoring solutions provide continuous oversight of your databases. These tools continuously watch performance metrics, access, and security status. Monitoring solutions can be configured to provide real-time alerts whenever they detect deviations from the norm. With automated monitoring, you no longer need to conduct periodic checks or manually sift through logs. Instead, an automated monitoring solution will save you time and reduce the risk of missing a critical issue.

Keep in mind that using these tools effectively requires striking a delicate balance. Although security is undoubtedly paramount, it shouldn’t come at the cost of system performance. To ensure the smooth functioning of your databases, weigh the depth of monitoring you need for robust security against the potential impact that monitoring might have on system performance.

Balancing strong security with strong performance

At its core, database monitoring serves a dual purpose: ensuring optimal performance and maintaining robust security. Through processes like performance, security, and compliance monitoring, database monitoring helps enterprises keep their databases running smoothly and safely.

However, the path to effective database monitoring isn’t without challenges. Dealing with large volumes of data and maintaining system performance while implementing monitoring are just some of the obstacles organizations face. But with the right tools and a well-considered approach, enterprises can navigate these challenges to create a reliable, secure, and compliant database environment.

As your enterprise seeks that critical balance for database security and database performance, you might also leverage data loss prevention (DLP) strategies and tools to protect your data and limit the attack surface. Your security measures may also include integrating next-generation antivirus (NGAV) and endpoint detection and response, all offered as part of the CrowdStrike Falcon® platform.

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Arfan Sharif is a product marketing lead for the Observability portfolio at CrowdStrike. He has over 15 years experience driving Log Management, ITOps, Observability, Security and CX solutions for companies such as Splunk, Genesys and Quest Software. Arfan graduated in Computer Science at Bucks and Chilterns University and has a career spanning across Product Marketing and Sales Engineering.