Security in MySQL  /  General Security Issues  /  Security Guidelines

2.1 Security Guidelines

Anyone using MySQL on a computer connected to the Internet should read this section to avoid the most common security mistakes.

In discussing security, it is necessary to consider fully protecting the entire server host (not just the MySQL server) against all types of applicable attacks: eavesdropping, altering, playback, and denial of service. We do not cover all aspects of availability and fault tolerance here.

MySQL uses security based on Access Control Lists (ACLs) for all connections, queries, and other operations that users can attempt to perform. There is also support for SSL-encrypted connections between MySQL clients and servers. Many of the concepts discussed here are not specific to MySQL at all; the same general ideas apply to almost all applications.

When running MySQL, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not ever give anyone (except MySQL root accounts) access to the user table in the mysql system database! This is critical.

  • Learn how the MySQL access privilege system works (see Chapter 4, Access Control and Account Management). Use the GRANT and REVOKE statements to control access to MySQL. Do not grant more privileges than necessary. Never grant privileges to all hosts.


    • Try mysql -u root. If you are able to connect successfully to the server without being asked for a password, anyone can connect to your MySQL server as the MySQL root user with full privileges! Review the MySQL installation instructions, paying particular attention to the information about setting a root password. See Section 3.4, “Securing the Initial MySQL Account”.

    • Use the SHOW GRANTS statement to check which accounts have access to what. Then use the REVOKE statement to remove those privileges that are not necessary.

  • Do not store cleartext passwords in your database. If your computer becomes compromised, the intruder can take the full list of passwords and use them. Instead, use SHA2() or some other one-way hashing function and store the hash value.

    To prevent password recovery using rainbow tables, do not use these functions on a plain password; instead, choose some string to be used as a salt, and use hash(hash(password)+salt) values.

  • Assume that all passwords will be subject to automated cracking attempts using lists of known passwords, and also to targeted guessing using publicly available information about you, such as social media posts. Do not choose passwords that consist of easily cracked or guessed items such as a dictionary word, proper name, sports team name, acronym, or commonly known phrase, particularly if they are relevant to you. The use of upper case letters, number substitutions and additions, and special characters does not help if these are used in predictable ways. Also do not choose any password you have seen used as an example anywhere, or a variation on it, even if it was presented as an example of a strong password.

    Instead, choose passwords that are as long and as unpredictable as possible. That does not mean the combination needs to be a random string of characters that is difficult to remember and reproduce, although this is a good approach if you have, for example, password manager software that can generate and fill such passwords and store them securely. A passphrase containing multiple words is easy to create, remember, and reproduce, and is much more secure than a typical user-selected password consisting of a single modified word or a predictable sequence of characters. To create a secure passphrase, ensure that the words and other items in it are not a known phrase or quotation, do not occur in a predictable order, and preferably have no previous relationship to each other at all.

  • Invest in a firewall. This protects you from at least 50% of all types of exploits in any software. Put MySQL behind the firewall or in a demilitarized zone (DMZ).


    • Try to scan your ports from the Internet using a tool such as nmap. MySQL uses port 3306 by default. This port should not be accessible from untrusted hosts. As a simple way to check whether your MySQL port is open, try the following command from some remote machine, where server_host is the host name or IP address of the host on which your MySQL server runs:

      $> telnet server_host 3306

      If telnet hangs or the connection is refused, the port is blocked, which is how you want it to be. If you get a connection and some garbage characters, the port is open, and should be closed on your firewall or router, unless you really have a good reason to keep it open.

  • Applications that access MySQL should not trust any data entered by users, and should be written using proper defensive programming techniques. See Section 2.7, “Client Programming Security Guidelines”.

  • Do not transmit plain (unencrypted) data over the Internet. This information is accessible to everyone who has the time and ability to intercept it and use it for their own purposes. Instead, use an encrypted protocol such as SSL or SSH. MySQL supports internal SSL connections. Another technique is to use SSH port-forwarding to create an encrypted (and compressed) tunnel for the communication.

  • Learn to use the tcpdump and strings utilities. In most cases, you can check whether MySQL data streams are unencrypted by issuing a command like the following:

    $> tcpdump -l -i eth0 -w - src or dst port 3306 | strings

    This works under Linux and should work with small modifications under other systems.


    If you do not see cleartext data, this does not always mean that the information actually is encrypted. If you need high security, consult with a security expert.