Database Security Monitoring for MySQL and MariaDB

Bart Oles


Data protection is one of the most significant aspects of administering a database. Depending on the organizational structure, whether you are a developer, sysadmin or DBA, if you are managing the production database, you must monitor data for unauthorized access and usage. The purpose of security monitoring is twofold. One, to identify unauthorised activity on the database. And two, to check if databases ´and their configurations on a company-wide basis are compliant with security policies and standards.

In this article, we will divide monitoring for security in two categories. One will be related to auditing of MySQL and MariaDB databases activities. The second category will be about monitoring your instances for potential security gaps.

Query and Connection Policy-Based Monitoring

Continuous auditing is an imperative task for monitoring your database environment. By auditing your database, you can achieve accountability for actions taken or content accessed. Moreover, the audit may include some critical system components, such as the ones associated with financial data to support a precise set of regulations like SOX, or the EU GDPR regulation. Usually, it is achieved by logging information about DB operations on the database to an external log file.

By default, auditing in MySQL or MariaDB is disabled. You and achieve it by installing additional plugins or by capturing all queries with the query_log parameter. The general query log file is a general record of what MySQL is performing. The server records some information to this log when clients connect or disconnect, and it logs each SQL statement received from clients. Due to performance issues and lack of configuration options, the general_log is not a good solution for security audit purposes.

If you use MySQL Enterprise, you can use the MySQL Enterprise Audit plugin which is an extension to the proprietary MySQL version. MySQL Enterprise Audit Plugin plugin is only available with MySQL Enterprise, which is a commercial offering from Oracle. Percona and MariaDB have created their own open source versions of the audit plugin. Lastly, McAfee plugin for MySQL can also be used with various versions of MySQL. In this article, we will focus on the open source plugins, although the Enterprise version from Oracle seems to be the most robust and stable.

Characteristics of MySQL Open Source Audit Plugins

While the open source audit plugins do the same job as the Enterprise plugin from Oracle – they produce output with database query and connections – there are some major architectural differences.

MariaDB Audit Plugin – The MariaDB Audit Plugin works with MariaDB, MySQL (as of version 5.5.34 and 10.0.7) and Percona Server. MariaDB started including the Audit Plugin by default from versions 10.0.10 and 5.5.37, and it can be installed in any version from MariaDB 5.5.20. It is the only plugin that supports Oracle MySQL, Percona Server, and MariaDB. It is available on Windows and Linux platform. Versions starting from 1.2 are most stable, and it may be risky to use versions below that in your production environment.

McAfee MySQL Audit Plugin – This plugin does not use MySQL audit API. It was recently updated to support MySQL 5.7. Some tests show that API based plugins may provide better performance but you need to check it with your environment.

Percona Audit Log Plugin – Percona provides an open source auditing solution that installs with Percona Server 5.5.37+ and 5.6.17+ as part of the installation process. Comparing to other open source plugins, this plugin has more reach output features as it outputs XML, JSON and to syslog.

As it has some internal hooks to the server to be feature-compatible with Oracle’s plugin, it is not available as a standalone plugin for other versions of MySQL.

Plugin installation based on MariaDB audit extension

The installation of open source MySQL plugins is quite similar for MariaDB, Percona, and McAfee versions.
Percona and MariaDB add their plugins as part of the default server binaries, so there is no need to download plugins separately. The Percona version only officially supports it’s own fork of MySQL so there is no direct download from the vendor’s website ( if you want to use this plugin with MySQL, you will have to obtain the plugin from a Percona server package). If you would like to use the MariaDB plugin with other forks of MySQL, then you can find it from The McAfee plugin is available at

Before you start the plugin installation, you can check if the plugin is present in the system. The dynamic plugin (doesn’t require instance restart) location can be checked with:


| Variable_name | Value                    |
| plugin_dir    | /usr/lib64/mysql/plugin/ |

Check the directory returned at the filesystem level to make sure you have a copy of the plugin library. If you do not have or server_audit.dll inside of /usr/lib64/mysql/plugin/, then more likely your MariaDB version is not supported and should upgrade it to latest version..

The syntax to install the MariaDB plugin is:

INSTALL SONAME 'server_audit';

To check installed plugins you need to run:

MariaDB [(none)]> show plugins;
| Name                          | Status   | Type               | Library            | License |
| binlog                        | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| mysql_native_password         | ACTIVE   | AUTHENTICATION     | NULL               | GPL     |
| mysql_old_password            | ACTIVE   | AUTHENTICATION     | NULL               | GPL     |
| wsrep                         | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| MRG_MyISAM                    | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| MEMORY                        | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| CSV                           | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| MyISAM                        | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| CLIENT_STATISTICS             | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| INDEX_STATISTICS              | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| TABLE_STATISTICS              | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| USER_STATISTICS               | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| PERFORMANCE_SCHEMA            | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| InnoDB                        | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| INNODB_TRX                    | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| INNODB_LOCKS                  | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| INNODB_LOCK_WAITS             | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| INNODB_CMP                    | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| INNODB_MUTEXES                | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| Aria                          | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| SEQUENCE                      | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| user_variables                | ACTIVE   | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| FEEDBACK                      | DISABLED | INFORMATION SCHEMA | NULL               | GPL     |
| partition                     | ACTIVE   | STORAGE ENGINE     | NULL               | GPL     |
| rpl_semi_sync_master          | ACTIVE   | REPLICATION        | | GPL     |
| rpl_semi_sync_slave           | ACTIVE   | REPLICATION        |  | GPL     |
| SERVER_AUDIT                  | ACTIVE   | AUDIT              |    | GPL     |

If you need additional information, check the PLUGINS table in the information_schema database which contains more detailed information.

Another way to install the plugin is to enable the plugin in my.cnf and restart the instance. An example of a basic audit plugin configuration from MariaDB could be :


Above setting should be placed in my.cnf. Audit plugin will create file /var/log/mysql/audit.log which will rotate on size 1GB and there will be eight rotations until the file is overwritten. The file will contain only information about connections.

Currently, there are sixteen settings which you can use to adjust the MariaDB audit plugin.


Among them, you can find options to include or exclude users, set different logging events (CONNECT or QUERY) and switch between file and syslog.

To make sure the plugin will be enabled upon server startup, you have to set in your my.cnf settings. Such configuration can be additionally protected by server_audit=FORCE_PLUS_PERMANENT which will disable the plugin uninstall option.

UNINSTALL PLUGIN server_audit;

ERROR 1702 (HY000):
Plugin 'server_audit' is force_plus_permanent and can not be unloaded

Here is some sample entries produced by MariaDB audit plugin:

20180817 20:00:01,slave,cmon,cmon,31,0,DISCONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180817 20:47:01,slave,cmon,cmon,17,0,DISCONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180817 20:47:02,slave,cmon,cmon,19,0,DISCONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180817 20:47:02,slave,cmon,cmon,18,0,DISCONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180819 17:19:19,slave,cmon,cmon,12,0,CONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180819 17:19:19,slave,root,localhost,13,0,FAILED_CONNECT,,,1045
20180819 17:19:19,slave,root,localhost,13,0,DISCONNECT,,,0
20180819 17:19:20,slave,cmon,cmon,14,0,CONNECT,mysql,,0
20180819 17:19:20,slave,cmon,cmon,14,0,DISCONNECT,mysql,,0
20180819 17:19:21,slave,cmon,cmon,15,0,CONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180819 17:19:21,slave,cmon,cmon,16,0,CONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180819 19:00:01,slave,cmon,cmon,17,0,CONNECT,information_schema,,0
20180819 19:00:01,slave,cmon,cmon,17,0,DISCONNECT,information_schema,,0

Schema changes report

If you need to track only DDL changes, you can use the ClusterControl Operational Report on Schema Change. The Schema Change Detection Report shows any DDL changes on your database. This functionality requires an additional parameter in ClusterControl configuration file. If this is not set you will see the following information: schema_change_detection_address is not set in /etc/cmon.d/cmon_1.cnf. Once that is in place an example output may be like below:

It can be set up with a schedule, and the reports emailed to recipients.

 Schedule Operational Report

ClusterControl: Schedule Operational Report

MySQL Database Security Assessment

Package Upgrade Check

First, we will start with security checks. Being up-to-date with MySQL patches will help reduce risks associated with known vulnerabilities present in the MySQL server. You can keep your environment up-to-date by using the vendors’ package repository. Based on this information you can build your own reports, or use tools like ClusterControl to verify your environment and alert you on possible updates.

ClusterControl Upgrade Report gathers information from the operating system and compares them to packages available in the repository. The report is divided into four sections; upgrade summary, database packages, security packages, and other packages. You can quickly compare what you have installed on your system and find a recommended upgrade or patch.

 Upgrade Report

ClusterControl: Upgrade Report
 Upgrade Report details

ClusterControl: Upgrade Report details

To compare them manually you can run

SHOW VARIABLES WHERE variable_name LIKE "version";

With security bulletins like:

Or vendor repositories:

On Debian

sudo apt list mysql-server

On RHEL/Centos

yum list | grep -i mariadb-server

Accounts Without Password

Blank passwords allow a user to login without using a password. MySQL used to come with a set of pre-created users, some of which can connect to the database without password or, even worse, anonymous users. Fortunately, this has changed in MySQL 5.7. Finally, it comes only with a root account that uses the password you choose at installation time.

For each row returned from the audit procedure, set a password:

SELECT User,host
FROM mysql.user
WHERE authentication_string='';

Additionally, you can install a password validation plugin and implement a more secure policy:

INSTALL PLUGIN validate_password SONAME '';

SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'default_password_lifetime';
SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'validate_password%';

An good start can be:

Of course, these settings will depend on your business needs.

Remote Access Monitoring

Avoiding the use of wildcards within hostnames helps control the specific locations from which a given user may connect to and interact with the database.

You should make sure that every user can connect to MySQL only from specific hosts. You can always define several entries for the same user, this should help to reduce a need for wildcards.

Execute the following SQL statement to assess this recommendation (make sure no rows are returned):

SELECT user, host FROM mysql.user WHERE host = '%';

Test database

The default MySQL installation comes with an unused database called test and the test database is available to every user, especially to the anonymous users. Such users can create tables and write to them. This can potentially become a problem on its own – and writes would add some overhead and reduce database performance. It is recommended that the test database is dropped. To determine if the test database is present, run:


If you notice that the test database is present, this could be that mysql_secure_installation script which drops the test database (as well as other security-related activities) was not executed.


If both server and client has the ability to run LOAD DATA LOCAL INFILE, a client will be able to load data from a local file to a remote MySQL server. The local_infile parameter dictates whether files located on the MySQL client’s computer can be loaded or selected via LOAD DATA INFILE or SELECT local_file.

This, potentially, can help to read files the client has access to – for example, on an application server, one could access any data that the HTTP server has access to. To avoid it, you need to set local-infile=0 in my.cnf.

Execute the following SQL statement and ensure the Value field is set to OFF:

SHOW VARIABLES WHERE Variable_name = 'local_infile';

Monitor for non-encrypted tablespaces

Starting from MySQL 5.7.11, InnoDB supports data encryption for tables stored in file-per-table tablespaces. This feature provides at-rest encryption for physical tablespace data files. To examine if your tables have been encrypted run:


| test         | t1         | ENCRYPTION="Y" |

As a part of the encryption, you should also consider encryption of the binary log. The MySQL server writes plenty of information to binary logs.

Encryption connection validation

In some setups, the database should not be accessible through the network if every connection is managed locally, through the Unix socket. In such cases, you can add the ‘skip-networking’ variable in my.cnf. Skip-networking prevents MySQL from using any TCP/IP connection, and only Unix socket would be possible on Linux.

However this is rather rare situation as it is common to access MySQL over the network. You then need to monitor that your connections are encrypted. MySQL supports SSL as a means to encrypting traffic both between MySQL servers (replication) and between MySQL servers and clients. If you use Galera cluster, similar features are available – both intra-cluster communication and connections with clients can be encrypted using SSL. To check if you use SSL encryption run the following queries:

SHOW variables WHERE variable_name = 'have_ssl'; 
select ssl_verify_server_cert from mysql.slave_master_info;

That’s it for now. This is not a complete list, do let us know if there are any other checks that you are doing today on your production databases.

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