Friday, August 29, 2014

Oracle Database FIPS 140-2 security

With the release of Oracle database Oracle has introduced a new parameter in the database in relation to security. The new parameter DBFIPS_140 is used to ensure your database is secured according to the FIPS 140-2 standards level 2. FIPS 140-2 stands for Federal Information Processing Standard and dictates how data should be encrypted in rest and during transmission.

The fact that Oracle now has the option to activate a parameter in the database which will control that your data will be secured in accordance to FIPS 140-2 level 2 is a huge benefit when deploying databases in government environments demanding FIPS compliancy, however, it can also be used for non government systems as it will show a level of security implemented in your system.

To ensure your entire solution is FIPS compliant in an end-to-end fashion will take more then only activate the DBFIPS_140 parameter in your database however from a database component point of view in the overall solution it is a good thing.

The current DBFIPS_140 parameter is designed to be compliant with FIPS 140-2 level 2. The FIPS 140 standard consist out of 4 levels from which Oracle is currently covering level 2. The overall standard has the following descriptions on the levels within FIPS 140-2:

  • FIPS 140-2 Level 1 the lowest, imposes very limited requirements; loosely, all components must be "production-grade" and various egregious kinds of insecurity must be absent.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 2 adds requirements for physical tamper-evidence and role-based authentication.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 adds requirements for physical tamper-resistance (making it difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive information contained in the module) and identity-based authentication, and for a physical or logical separation between the interfaces by which "critical security parameters" enter and leave the module, and its other interfaces.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 4 makes the physical security requirements more stringent, and requires robustness against environmental attacks

The FIPS 140-2 setting uses the cryptographic libraries which are included in the Oracle database to ensure encryption of the data and are designed to meet the federal requirements for data encryption during rest and during transmission. For this Oracle uses a combination of 3 solutions; a Secure Socket Layer implementation (SSL), Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) and the DBMS_CRYPTO package.

To active the FIPS 140 setting you have to apply the below command and restart your database to ensure the change has taken effect;


When designing a secure environment for you customer, government or non-government it is however of importance to understand that security takes more then only activating DBFIPS_140. Even if you only take the database into account a real secure Oracle database implementation will take a lot more and will include full separate security architecture.  The Oracle Advanced Security portfolio for databases contains a lot of products, which are pure for the database.

Implementing this, and taking into account you will still need additional security around networking, operating systems, physical location security, client system security and others will take more time then an average secured system. Only securing the database will provide you a secure solution for your database however to ensure true security you will have to apply the same level of masseurs on all components of your secured landscape.

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