Securing MySQL Server
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MySQL is an open-source relational database management system. This guide will show you how to secure and audit a MySQL server. The name is a combination of “My”, the name of co-founder Michael Widenius’s daughter, and “SQL”, the abbreviation for Structured Query Language.
Before You Begin
Check your Linode’s hostname. The first command should show your short hostname and the second should show your fully qualified domain name (FQDN).
hostname hostname -f
NoteIf you have a registered domain name for your website, then add the domain to the Linode server on which you plan to install the LAMP stack. If you do not have a registered domain name, then replace
example.comwith the IP address of the Linode server in the following instructions.
Update your system:
sudo yum update
NoteThis guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with
sudo. If you’re not familiar with the
sudocommand, you can check our Users and Groups guide.
In order to secure and audit MySQL, you need to have a Linux server with the
MySQL Serverservices running. For information about installing MySQL please see Install MySQL
NoteThe instructions in this guide are based on Ubuntu 18.04, though all the steps are distribution agnostic with the exception of package names and package managers.
Using The Secure MySQL Installer
The mysql-server package comes pre configured with a utility called
mysql_secure_installation that is used to set up a secure starting point for MySQL server, by deleting anonymous users and allowing you to specify the desired password strength policy.
mysql_secure_installation is a shell script available on Unix systems, and enables you to secure the MySQL installation by enabling you to:
- set a password for root accounts
- remove root accounts that are accessible from outside the local host
- remove anonymous-user accounts
- remove the test database, which by default can be accessed by anonymous users
Begin the security process by running this utility immediately after installing mysql-server.
Invoke the utility by running the following command:
The setup process begins and the utility prompts you to specify whether you want to enable the validate password plugin that is used to test passwords and improve security. It is recommended to enable this feature.
Securing the MySQL server deployment. Connecting to MySQL using a blank password. VALIDATE PASSWORD PLUGIN can be used to test passwords and improve security. It checks the strength of password and allows the users to set only those passwords which are secure enough. Would you like to setup VALIDATE PASSWORD plugin? Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No: y
After you enable the password plugin, specify your password validation policy based on the level of the strength of the desired passwords.
There are three levels of password validation policy: LOW Length >= 8 MEDIUM Length >= 8, numeric, mixed case, and special characters STRONG Length >= 8, numeric, mixed case, special characters and dictionary file Please enter 0 = LOW, 1 = MEDIUM and 2 = STRONG: 2 Please set the password for root here. New password: Re-enter new password: Estimated strength of the password: 100 Do you wish to continue with the password provided?(Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No) : y
Remove anonymous users. This is an important security option as attackers can leverage anonymous users to gain access to the database server.
By default, a MySQL installation has an anonymous user, allowing anyone to log into MySQL without having to have a user account created for them. This is intended only for testing, and to make the installation go a bit smoother. You should remove them before moving into a production environment. Remove anonymous users? (Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No) : y
Disable root login remotely, this is an extremely important security configuration as it prevents attackers from remotely authenticating to the MySQL server as root or performing password brute-force attacks. Remote authentication can also be disabled completely, we will take a look at how to do that in the next section.
Normally, root should only be allowed to connect from 'localhost'. This ensures that someone cannot guess at the root password from the network. Disallow root login remotely? (Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No) : y
Delete the test database created during the mysql-server installation process, this database is created for testing purposes, as a good practice, it is recommended to delete this database.
By default, MySQL comes with a database named 'test' that anyone can access. This is also intended only for testing, and should be removed before moving into a production environment. Remove test database and access to it? (Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No) : y
Reload the privilege tables to ensure that all changes are applied and are in effect.
You now have a secure base to work with, in the next section, find the instructions to change the default root username and password.
Reloading the privilege tables will ensure that all changes made so far will take effect immediately. Reload privilege tables now? (Press y|Y for Yes, any other key for No) : y Success. All done!
Modifying The “root” user
By default, MySQL server comes predefined with a
superuser/admin account that has access to all privileges and functionality of the databases and database users. Given this unparalleled control and access, it is important to lock down and secure the root account as attackers usually target the root account on a MySQL server because it has the potential to provide complete access over the databases and database users.
The first step in securing the “root” user is to change the username from
root to something more unyielding, the objective is to make the root username as hard to guess or to brute-force for attackers. After which, it is also recommended to change the
root account password regularly as a good practice.
Login to the MySQL server with the following command:
sudo mysql -u root
Change the “root” account username by running the following query:
rename user 'root'@'localhost' to '<new-username>'@'localhost';
rootaccount password to something strong and hard to guess, it is recommended to use a password generator. If you enabled the verify password plugin during the secure installation process, you need to provide a password that meets the policy requirements in terms of strength.
ALTER USER 'example_username'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY '<new-password>';
Reload the privilege table to ensure that all changes are saved and activated by running the following command:
To confirm whether the
rootusername and password are changed, run the following query:
use mysql; select user,host,authentication_string from mysql.user;
This displays the user tables stored under the mysql database and should reflect the changes made.
+------------------+-----------+-------------------------------------------+ | user | host | authentication_string | +------------------+-----------+-------------------------------------------+ | example_user | localhost | *A2550B00C6DF81DACE33551E8293462F6CAE33DA | | mysql.session | localhost | *THISISNOTAVALIDPASSWORDTHATCANBEUSEDHERE | | mysql.sys | localhost | *THISISNOTAVALIDPASSWORDTHATCANBEUSEDHERE | | debian-sys-maint | localhost | *241DC5A20F017D55EE82E46E7996784ED4A5CD8A | +------------------+-----------+-------------------------------------------+ 4 rows in set (0.00 sec)
Creating A New User
A good security practice is the concept of segregation by duties or role. This means that for every database or application that uses the database, create a new user that has CRUD permissions for that particular database. This ensures that at any time, only one user has access to one database at a time and users cannot access other databases.
Testdatabase, by running the following query within MYSQL:
create database Test;
Create the user responsible for managing this Test database:
CREATE USER '<username>'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY '<password>';
Assign the appropriate CRUD permissions to the user for the
GRANT SELECT,UPDATE,DELETE ON Test.* TO '<username>'@'localhost';
It is important to note that these privileges are applicable only to the
Testdatabase, if you are creating a user for an application such as
phpMyAdmin, you need to provide the user with
If you decide to delete a particular user, run the following query:
drop user '<username>'@'localhost';
Reload the privilege table to ensure the changes made are applied and activated by running the following query:
Custom MySQL Configuration
You can now setup a secure custom configuration for MySQL that provides additional security configuration options.
The global MySQL configuration file is located in
/etc/mysql/my.cnf, all custom global configurations are to be set up in the configuration file.
The custom configuration needs to be specified for the mysqld (MySQL daemon), the options displayed in the image are custom security configurations.
After adding the custom configurations, you need to restart the
mysqlservice to ensure all changes are applied.
systemctl restart mysql
Auditing MySQL Security
You can now audit the security of the MySQL server by using a tool called MySAT. MySAT performs several tests to analyze database configurations and security policies. MySAT helps to assess and therefore to increase MySQL database security. MySAT is a simple SQL script, it is easy to understand and easy to maintain. MySAT results are output in HTML format.
Clone the MySAT Github repository, by running the following command:
git clone https://github.com/meob/MySAT.git
After cloning the directory, navigate into the MySAT directory, where the
mysat.sqlfile is located and it is used in conjunction with the MySQL server to output the results into a
Audit the security by running the following command:
mysql --user=<root-user> -p<password> --skip-column-names -f < mysat.sql > MySAT.htm
As indicated, MySAT requires root access to MySQL to run the required tests, after running the command, the MySAT.htm file is generated, copy the MySAT.htm file and the
mysat.cssfile to an Apache or NGINX server, or download them locally with
scp, so that you can analyze the results of the audit.
The results are formatted in a simple to read and understand format, where configurations are checked and results are color coded based on their current configuration and how it affects the security of the mysql server. For example, a failed configuration check is color coded in orange and a passed check is color coded in green.
The audit report reveals what configurations need to be changed or modified and presents you with a top level picture of the overall security of the MySQL server.
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