In today’s world insider threat is a major issue and the one which is harder to get noticed or surfaced in any IT systems.


It assumes even greater importance when the threat is to our information assets. Data is a very strategic asset for any organisation as it can reveal all the proprietary knowledge of an organisation to the world and in some cases corrodes the trust reposed in the organisation by its customers if the customer’s data is compromised. For the uninitiated “insider threat” is defined as the fraudulent or sabotaging activities carried out by the very people who are supposed the keep the system safe and sound. They are the most powerful users in terms of the privileges available to them and can wreak havoc with the systems if start working with a malefic intent. For instance DBA is the most powerful user of the database. If the DBA has business knowledge of the system she can change the data to her own advantage and can get away with easily. For example in a financial system money can be transferred to anyone’s account by changing the account information. How can it be prevented from happening? How can we restrict the ability of power users of the system to tweak the system to their ow advantage? Traditionally we would have had to rely on the business processes and the auditing of user activities and its more of a reactive approach. However Oracle provides a tool called oracle data vault whose sole purpose is to prevent from insider threats proactively.

  • Data Vault enables us to apply fine-grained access control to your sensitive data in a variety of ways. It hardens your Oracle Database instance and enforces industry standard best practices in terms of separating duties from traditionally powerful users. Most importantly, it protects your data from super-privileged users but still allows them to maintain our Oracle databases.
  • It addresses the most difficult security problems remaining today: protecting against insider threats, meeting regulatory compliance requirements, and enforcing separation of duty.

Data vault has the following main components

  • Realms– A realm is a functional grouping of database schemas, objects, and roles that must be secured. For example, we can group a set of schemas, objects, and roles that are related to accounting, sales, or human resources. After we have grouped these into a realm, we can use the realm to control the use of system privileges to specific accounts or roles.


  • Command rules – A command rule is a special rule that we can create to control how users can execute almost any SQL statement, including SELECT, ALTER SYSTEM, database definition language (DDL), and data manipulation language (DML) statements
  • Rule sets –A rule set is a collection of one or more rules that we can associate with a realm authorization or command rule. The rule set evaluates to true or false based on the evaluation of each rule it contains and the evaluation type (All True or Any True). The rule within a rule set is a PL/SQL expression that evaluates to true or false. We can have the same rule in multiple rule sets

Once a realm is created then only the realm owner or realm participant has access to all the objects inside a realm. Even the system and sys users cannot access these objects unless authorized. Data vault provides security by providing separation of duty.DBA should only be able to monitor an maintain the system and it should not have access to business related objects and data. Separation of duty is accomplished by creating another set of powerful users in database when vault is installed and enabled. The SOD is provided as below

Account management. Account management entails creating, modifying, and dropping user accounts. The DV_ACCTMGR role provides these privileges.

  • Security administration. Security administration covers basic security tasks such as creating realms and command rules, setting security policies for database users’ access, and authorizing database users for jobs they are allowed to perform. Security administrators also run security audit reports. The DV_OWNER and DV_ADMIN roles provide these privileges. Optionally, you can consolidate the account management and security administrative responsibilities.
  • Resource management. Resource management refers to managing the database system but not accessing business data. It includes the following operations:
  • Backup operations require a predefined time to perform the backup using predefined tools.
  • Tuning and monitoring operations require ongoing performance monitoring and analysis.
  • Patching operations require temporary access only during the time the patching takes place

For resource management, you should create a named account and a backup account for each of these tasks. Add these accounts as owners of the Data Dictionary realm. Use these accounts as the primary resource managers in the database.


One Thought on “Fight with insider fraud – Oracle Data Vault

  1. dayashanker on September 22, 2014 at 12:36 pm said:

    Hi Abhishek, It is good to have this oracle vault as security for the database but at the same time there are so many other vulnerable places like OS, application etc. Can you define the standard SOD for Database, OS and applicaiton so one can define the same in their project.

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