Page Two

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-04-21 Print this article Print

Authentication of users, for example, must not depend on simple combinations of user ID and password. Users choose obvious passwords and are careless in keeping them to themselves. More reliable two-factor authentication requires any two of something one knows (such as a password), something one has (such as an active encryption token) and something one is (such as a fingerprint). Judicious use of two-factor schemes—for example, in granting physical access to facilities—improves security of everything within that two-factor perimeter.

Databases should incorporate security in their own structure, rather than assume that application developers will serve as data guardians. Individual database user accounts are more difficult to administer than group IDs, but nothing else provides sufficient accountability for data alterations. Users may, however, share common roles that give them role-based privileges such as adding records only to specified tables.

For any given enterprise, or for any single user, its not necessary (or even possible) to be immune to all attacks; its enough to be among the least-vulnerable targets. In a world of passwords that readily yield to a trivial dictionary search, for example, a system whose passwords combine two unrelated words—especially with a punctuation character in between—will almost certainly not be the first one cracked.

Its a target-rich environment. For all but the best-known, high-value targets, merely being in the least-vulnerable third of the population for every common mode of attack will translate into high returns on security investments.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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