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From Edmon Begoli <>
Subject Re: Question for Tomcat Developers - How to Plug In Encryption for JDBC passwords
Date Sun, 27 Feb 2005 08:14:59 GMT

Please do not start the flame war. Check what I have to say. I am really 
not a beginner in this area.

First, feature I mentioned is commonly implemented on every major 
application server platform that I know- JBoss, WebSphere, WebLogic, 
Oracle AS.
It's purpose is not to permanently protect the credentials, but to 
minimize or prevent the damage
from a short duration attack - i.e. to minimize chances of a breach into 
a data tier.
I am quite aware of all the other best security engineering practices, 
but in this case
I am really addressing one pretty significant scenario - a short 
duration attack where the application server host machine
has been completely compromised by an external or lateral attack.

You attacked and fully breached the machine that is hosting Tomcat, and 
as you've done so you have triggered various trip wires. So you have
only few minutes before the attack is confirmed.

If the Tomcat password is in clear, you just need to connect to the 
database using the connection string provided and you can start pulling 
the data out.
For the person skilled in the target database 5 min would be more then 
enough for all kinds of catastrophically damaging activities -
primarely finding and reading the sensitive data. It is commonly 
recognized in the security circles that the application server's JDBC  
rights are
achilles heel of the application. With clear passwords - there is 
nothing in your way.

If you have 5 min on the Tomcat that has a connection password encrypted 
- you have to spend time to decrypt it - no matter how trivial that task 
may be, or how
well known the algorithm may be. In a sophisticated, secured environment 
this time required to break even the most simplistic encryption 
algorithm can be sufficient
enough for the intrusion detection and prevention mechanims to kick in 
and stop the show before any of the data has been read, exported or 

Of all the elements in the distributed systems with relational backends 
- the most senstive part of it is a relational backend itself. Not a web 
server, root account,
not a shadow files, but the database itself because if somebody gets 
hold of even one social security number, mother's maiden name, medical 
record, salary, ...
the targeted business (and the people who implemented the application) 
may need to put a "Closout Sale" sign on their shop soon.

Sample of JDBC configuration entry in BEA WebLogic 9

|  <jdbc-driver-params>

Parsons Technical Services wrote:

> Okay, I know I am starting a flame war but why go through the effort?
> If I can see your encrypted passwords, then I can see the code that 
> decrypts them. And with that I have your passwords. It only adds a 
> step to my effort to crack your security.
> The only way to really secure them is to secure the files they are 
> stored in. If you are on Linux or Windoze with NTFS this can be done. 
> Then only you and Tomcat can see them. This of course does not exclude 
> the admin/root, but if you can't trust them then you have bigger issues.
> So in reality don't bother with what is in the files, instead secure 
> the files.
> If you disagree, then explain how you are going to send the password 
> to MySQL?  And some more info on your environment may help us give you 
> some other suggestions.
> Please don't take this the wrong way. This has been discussed many 
> times before and there is no real solution other than as stated above. 
> If you have a different idea, please post it. We are open to new ideas 
> and suggestions, but with this one, I feel the solution lies in the 
> environment. Please feel free to prove me wrong. And yes it has been 
> done before, for I am far from perfect.
> Doug
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Edmon Begoli" <>
> To: "Tomcat Users List" <>
> Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2005 10:08 PM
> Subject: Question for Tomcat Developers - How to Plug In Encryption 
> for JDBC passwords
>> Hi,
>> I an using Tomcat 5.5.7, and I am planning on upgrading as needed.
>> As we all know Tomcat enables me to configure JDBC resources
>> that my app can use through the JNDI. My problem is that these 
>> passwords have to be stored as a plain text
>> which is a very bitter pill in my environment.
>> What is the Tomcat class that reads in those plain text values?
>> I would like to override this behavior and to enable this class to 
>> read digests/encrypted passwords.
>> I would also contribute this code to Tomcat code base if desired.
>> Please advise,
>> Edmon
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