Core Security Technologies Unveils a New Attack Technique for Database Systems


New Technique Could be Used by an Attacker to Retrieve Passwords, Credit Card Numbers or Other Privacy-sensitive Data from Popular Databases

BOSTON, MA - August 1, 2007 - Core Security Technologies, provider of CORE IMPACT, the most comprehensive product for performing enterprise security assurance testing, today presented the results of the company’s research work on a new type of attack that could be used to obtain confidential information from databases. This technique could allow attackers with only the access rights of normal users to retrieve confidential data from databases. CoreLabs, the research arm of Core Security, discovered the method, which enables an attacker to execute a timing attack to retrieve private entries from database tables without requiring the existence of implementation bugs or incorrect security configurations in the database system.

“Because databases are so widely used to house confidential information, it is important for security-conscious organizations to proactively identify potential database threats and start planning for appropriate countermeasures,” said Ivan Arce, CTO of Core Security Technologies. “While this new attack method is still far from widespread use, our research showed that the threat is plausible. Effective data security goes beyond simply fixing implementation bugs or configuring access rights; it should be an inherent, built-in feature of database systems and not an afterthought addressed with add-on components. This new attack technique makes that point because it exploits a weakness that is buried deep in the internals of the

database system.”

Organizations across most industries depend on database engines to store and manage privacy-sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, medical records, authentication credentials and personal financial information. To accommodate the business need of ubiquitous access to information, organizations often use web-based applications as the standard front end to their database systems. In today’s threat landscape, data security breaches are mostly due to the exploitation of bugs in these front-end web applications (e.g., via SQL injection) or to the abuse of improperly configured authorization and access control privileges on the

database system.

Today at Black Hat USA 2007 in Las Vegas, CoreLabs researchers Damian Saura and Ariel Waissbein presented research results on a new attack technique that compromises databases without requiring implementation bugs or incorrect security configurations. The new attack relies solely on the application of a timing attack, a technique typically used to break cipher system implementations, to exploit some inherent weaknesses in the indexing algorithms used by most commercial database management systems.

Saura and Waissbein presented the audience with the research steps that led them to find this attack method, illustrated its effectiveness both in theory and by describing their experiments implementing the attack against a default MySQL database installation. They also discussed prevention and detection methods.

For more information about this new database attack technique, or to schedule meetings with Core Security’s experts at Black Hat USA 2007, please contact Dave Bowker or Tiffany Archambault at 781-684-0770 or email  

About CoreLabs

CoreLabs, the research center of Core Security Technologies, is charged with anticipating the future needs and requirements for information security technologies. Research is conducted in several important areas of computer security including system vulnerabilities, cyber attack planning and simulation, source code auditing and cryptography. Results from these efforts include problem formalization, identification of vulnerabilities, novel solutions and prototypes for new technologies.

CoreLabs regularly publishes security advisories, technical papers, project information and shared software tools for public use at:

About Core Security Technologies

Core Security Technologies develops strategic solutions that help security-conscious organizations worldwide develop and maintain a proactive process for securing their networks. The company’s flagship product, CORE IMPACT, is the most comprehensive product for performing enterprise security assurance testing. IMPACT evaluates network, endpoint and end-user vulnerabilities and identifies what resources are exposed. It enables organizations to determine if current security investments are detecting and preventing attacks. Core augments its leading technology solution with world-class security consulting services, including penetration testing and software security auditing. Based in Boston, MA and Buenos Aires, Argentina, Core Security Technologies can be reached at 617-399-6980 or on the Web at


Dave Bowker or Tiffany Archambault

Schwartz Communications

781 684-0770

Wed, August 01