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Re: How to protect Postgres password in my app?

From: Stephen Cook <sclists(at)gmail(dot)com>
To: Basil Bourque <basil(dot)list(at)me(dot)com>
Cc: pgsql-novice(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: How to protect Postgres password in my app?
Date: 2011-05-10 20:29:06
Message-ID: (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-novice
On 5/10/2011 4:07 PM, Basil Bourque wrote:
> I'm an experienced programmer, but for the first time I'm developing an app that connects to a Postgres server over the internet.
> How do you secure the password used to connect to Postgres?
> My idea is to have a single user, representing my app, defined in Postgres. Then separately I'll have my own table to track each human user. I've learned about BCrypt and Postgres' encryption functions "crypt" etc. to securely store the human user's password as a value in a row in my own "user_" table.
> But how do I secure the app's password to connect to Postgres?
> a) I assume I should encrypt the connection with SSL. I'm learning about SSL certificates now. Is that the way to go? Would you consider that to be required in any serious business app connecting to Postgres over the Internets?
> b) Hard-coding the app's Postgres password in the app's source code seems less than ideal to me. Is there some better way?
> -- If the app is built in Java, I've heard that Java is very easy to de-compile and thus expose the password. Other languages such as Real Studio (REALbasic) may be not suffer that vulnerability.
> -- Hard-coding means I'm not free to change the password on the server. To change the password, I would have to upgrade all my users simultaneously.
> c) Should I manage all my human users as Postgres users? Is trying to manage the passwords on my own a dumb idea?
> --Basil

Who are you trying to protect the password from?

SSL will protect it in transit (e.g. against "evil" nodes along the way, 
or someone listening in), but not against anyone who has access to your 
app itself (your users). You can't really protect it from users; even if 
you encrypt it on the client end the app will have to decrypt it for use 
and tech-savvy users can get at it with a bit of effort (this is true 
for any and all programming languages used).

Your best bet might be to assume that any hacker (or anyone who 
downloads that one hacker's work) *will* have access to the PostgreSQL 
password. Only allow the PG user minimal access to get its job done. 
Then if some guy writes an "alternative" app using your "secret" PG 
password, it can't do anything that the original wasn't allowed in the 
first place.

More info about what you are doing would help if you want more advice.

-- Stephen Cook

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