A comprehensive database security policy requires a variety of tools and strategies that work in concert to avoid a single point of failure in your defense. From authentication and privileged access management to SSL encryption and data masking, there are a myriad of options to strengthen your database’s defenses and protect the sensitive information within.
One tactic adds a literal layer of security by using a reverse proxy. Reverse proxies are a type of proxy server that shields your network by providing a buffer to catch any questionable login attempts. While these differ from a forward proxy, reverse proxies are still useful defense mechanisms to consider when creating your security policy.
In this article, you will learn about:
What is a Reverse Proxy?
Before we explain what a reverse proxy is, it might be helpful to understand what a proxy server is in general. A proxy server is a buffer that sits on the edge of a network between an origin and a destination. For instance, a forward proxy is positioned between the client and the server they’re trying to connect to. A reverse proxy, by comparison, is positioned to buffer specific destinations after a client’s initial connection – like in the case of a DNS that gives clients a proxy address rather than the origin server.
One of the main security benefits of a proxy is adding a layer of anonymity between server and client. A forward proxy can be used to mask a client’s IP address; a reverse proxy can mask an origin server’s address. Moreover, proxies can assist with page load times, caching and distributing information, and – in the case of organizations keeping their members on track – filtering access to non-productive or potentially harmful websites.
Without a reverse proxy, Internet traffic can directly connect to your servers. Though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, reverse proxies can help identify and catch threats while hiding your origin server’s address. This is especially useful in mitigating DDoS attacks.
With that in mind, it’s highly recommended to use a reverse proxy to protect your servers, especially if your database has a lot of public traffic.
What is the Difference Between a Reverse Proxy and Forward Proxy?
While the proxy server’s positioning still adds security to your network, whether the server sits in front of or behind the firewall will determine where the security is being applied.
For instance, a forward proxy processes network traffic before it reaches the Internet – such as an institutional firewall that blocks its users from reaching specific websites. Conversely, a reverse proxy processes incoming Internet traffic before it reaches the network.
Why Choose a Reverse Proxy vs. Forward Proxy?
A rule of thumb when considering what kind of proxy to use is that a forward proxy protects clients and a reverse proxy protects servers.
Forward proxies are useful for protecting servers from questionable traffic, web acceleration by caching content, and monitoring web content access by users within your organization.
Reverse proxies, by comparison, allow your organization to minimize the risk and effectiveness of DDoS attacks, enable SSL encryption, and improve browser functionality through load balancing and compressing inbound and outbound traffic.
Data Security Benefits of a Reverse Proxy
As mentioned before, reverse proxies are the gatekeepers of your outer wall of protection. Since they sit in front of the backend servers, they buffer and filter out any less-than-trustworthy traffic before it even gets to the servers.
DDoS Attack Protection
In that same vein, a reverse proxy is a great deterrent for DDoS attacks because it can terminate these connections before they reach your database. This way the backend servers can continue to function while the proxy takes on the brunt of the attack.
A DDoS attack may still result in clients being unable to access the database if they’re still filtered through the proxy. However, when it comes to data security, it’s better that the proxy is affected instead of the database.
Because clients never engage directly with the backend server, a proxy allows the server’s IP address and other identifiable information to remain anonymous.
This is a useful feature that keeps hackers and other bad actors from finding server information to exploit and probe for weaknesses. Even if they’re aware of the proxy, it’s hard to attack a server if they can’t ascertain how to get to it.
Disadvantages of a Reverse Proxy
Security Cloud May Block Apps and Plugins
While using a reverse proxy can enable your organization to implement SSL encryption, this security feature might interfere with the use of apps and plugins that need access to your backend servers. This can be mitigated by fine-tuning different security settings but in doing so, you may open yourself up to added risk (bad actors will use those plugins to bypass the proxy) or using more time and energy to keep everything compatible.
Makes Client Auditing Difficult
Because the client requests are relayed to the servers through the proxy, it may be difficult to audit which requests are malicious since they’re all coming through the proxy. The trade-off is that in order to have a better understanding of client connections, you’d have to do so without the proxy, sacrificing its protection for visibility.
Requires Additional Resources and Processing Power
Because you’re running a separate server to buffer traffic before those requests reach the backend servers, you’ll need the processing power to host the reverse proxy. This is difficult if you’re working with limited space and resources.
Can Add Latency if Load Balancing Options Aren’t Tuned Correctly
In addition to resource constraints, reverse proxies might cause latency if their load balancing options are either poorly configured or the proxy itself requires too much processing power.
Single Point of Failure
A reverse proxy is a great data security tool but should not be the only one you use. Failure to create a comprehensive security policy where a reverse proxy is one of many parts could be catastrophic. The proxy is only a buffer; if there are no other defenses behind it and hackers manage to get through the proxy, you’ve left your database exceptionally vulnerable.
Using Satori as a Reverse Proxy Data Access Controller
A reverse database proxy approach enables Satori to offer the capabilities organizations need to accelerate data access while reducing security and compliance risks. The key capabilities Satori provides are:
- Fine-Grained Access Control
- Dynamic Data Masking
- Decentralized Data Access Workflows
- Data Access Auditing & Monitoring
- Continuous Data Discovery & Classification
To learn more about Satori schedule a demo with one of our experts.