The Best Practises to Ensure That Your Data Warehouse Is as Secure as Possible

In our modern age, data is created, generated, and stored at every turn. From the moment a consumer clicks onto a webpage to the moment they check out of a store, everything is recorded and documented. While this advanced era of data collection has resulted in breakthroughs with statistical analysis of consumerism, it has also led to data being one of the most valuable tools that a hacker will try and target.

Considering that a data warehouse has all of your company’s data, it is one of the primary locations that a user with negative inventions will try and access. If you’re looking to ensure the security of your data warehouse, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down the most effective ways that you can boost the security of your data warehouses. Take a look at these tips, so your business doesn’t become one of the 45% of U.S. companies that suffered a data breach in 2020

Let’s get right into it.

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a form of managing a large quantity of data at the same time, collating and presenting data in a way that aligns with its uses within business. Typically, they contain large amounts of data, documenting historical trends as well as acting as a base that new data is entered into. All data, from log files to transaction applications, will be stored within these systems.

Its ability to pull from many sources is perhaps one of the most useful aspects of a data warehouse and one of the central reasons that businesses use them when conducting any form of analysis. The balance between integration and stability, being a non-volatile source of many different data sources, makes data warehouses an invaluable tool for businesses.

Why should security be a priority in a data warehouse?

Data warehouses store huge quantities of data for businesses, including many sets that will be private. Particularly in the case of user data that is confidential, businesses should strive to protect the data that their customers are opting to give them. As we’ve seen over recent years, cyberattacks are consistently becoming more of a daily occurrence, meaning that data warehouse security has become even more vital.

Typically, data warehouse security is split into three areas:

  • User Control – Ensuring that certain users have the right permissions, allowing them to access only that which is vital to their job, is one of the most essential practices of a secure warehouse.
  • Network Security – A strong network security is the basis for a secure data warehouse.
  • Data Migration Control – Data is at its most vulnerable when it is being migrated. Due to this, any form of data movement needs to be closely monitored to ensure that none of the data is compromised during this transition period.

Considering that nearly 50% of consumers would not sign up to a platform if it suffered any form of data breach, it’s always worth placing emphasis on your data – and especially your customers’ data – security.

Although there is a certain challenge between constructing a secure database and one that your employees can access to do their jobs, the importance of a secure data warehouse ensures that this is a priority for those that are turning to this large-scale data solution.

Best practices to ensure that your data warehouse remains secure

When securing a data warehouse, an admin user must strike a balance between letting their employees access data and preventing that data from becoming too widespread. Part of this strategy comes back to purpose, with user roles being a central part of a strong defence system.

There are several strategies that are commonly used when creating a secure data warehouse.

We’ll be discussing:

  • Privileges and Role creation
  • Using VPDs (Virtual Private Databases)
  • Data Encryption
  • Always Classify and Categorize Your New Data Points

Let’s break these down further and demonstrate how they can help secure your system.

Privileges and Role Creation

An essential part of securing your data warehouses is setting system privileges and roles within the database. Defining these parameters is one of the first steps you can take when creating a level of database security as it confines which users can access which data and perform certain commands.

Data can be a deeply private aspect of business, and if you allow everyone to have completely free reign, you’d be setting yourself up for data breaches, bad business habits, and the potential of data leaks. However, once you create a role and assign it to the correct people, you ensure that they can only access the files that they have permission to enter.

Equally, let’s say you make a role for application developers and assign it with certain commands, those with that role will now be able to perform certain commands within your database. As an admin user, you should endeavor to construct these privilege-infrastructures as early as possible, ensuring that this is a priority when you start working with a data warehouse.

As a pillar of security, the creation of roles and privileges will ensure that your data is always as secure as possible, with only authorized personnel having access to your most central files.

Using VPDs

A VPD (Virtual Private Database) is a security policy that you can apply to a specific element of your data warehouse. For example, you can add a policy to a specific table, synonym, or view within your data sets, then only allowing certain people to access these assets.

As you can add a VPD directly to an aspect of the data, you have even greater control over the data you’re protecting, ensuring individual data points are obscured from some users. This is a database layer of security, working from the database outwards instead of from the infrastructure inwards.

These tools are especially useful when multiple users need to work on or access the same sheet but cannot be allowed to see all of the information on the sheet. For example, a banking institution may use a VPD to ensure that a customer can access a sheet that has their data without allowing them to see every single customers’ data on the same sheet.

No matter how a user attempts to access the data, they will have to confront the VPD, interacting with the data through this security system. In short, this provides an integrated level of security that keeps individual sets of your data as safe as possible.

Data Encryption

With a data warehouse, it’s likely that there is some data that must be kept private, even from those that use the datasets every single day. If this is the case, then data encryption is one of the most comprehensive solutions. By executing commands, an admin user can encrypt any sensitive data they may have, assigning it an encryption key.

Only those that have the encryption key will be able to access the files, ensuring that your data is completely secure. Typically, any transactional database should have encryption on it, but this extends to any sensitive data within your data warehouses.

Typically, encryption can be performed by using FIPS 140-2 software, which is a U.S. government-approved standard for cryptography. One thing to note about this is it can slow the performance of your data warehouses.

When comparing large-scale cloud data warehouses Snowflake vs. Redshift, one major point of comparison is the extent to which encryption is integrated into their platforms and the speed despite its presence. As this is a known issue with this form of security, major warehouses are working to balance this aspect of control.

Classify Your Data

Data that is unstructured in a warehouse is incredibly difficult to accurately give permissions to or to discern what is sensitive or not. Due to this, one of the first steps that will then enable further security implementations is to ensure that all new data is classified within certain categories.

By ensuring that your data is stored within the correct location, you can then certify that only those people you want to see a particular dataset will have access to it. Without categorization, your data will be visible to everyone and make permissions structures much more difficult to integrate.

Due to this, we recommend this as the first step you take when you start working with a data warehouse solution.

Final Thoughts

As a centralized container unit that holds every single element of data that is related to your business, either currently or historically, the importance of having a secure data warehouse environment is paramount. Once operating a data warehouse, admin users should take steps to ensure that it is secure.

From moving through the recommended security practices to ensuring that your permissions and encryptions are up to speed, you should always take basic security measures when using a data warehouse.

Nathaniel Villa
Nathaniel Villa