January 8, 2024

Data compliance for Postgres (PostreSQL)

Data compliance for PostgreSQL (Postgres) database environments is an important component of your organization’s overall compliance strategy.  

To abide by critical regulations while balancing rapid innovation, teams of application developers, database administrators, and data engineers need to get ahead of the challenges of maintaining compliance throughout their interconnected pipeline. As demand, pressure, volume, complexity, and competition increases and taxes these teams, features like access controls, governance, observability, and support for data encryption ensures data integrity and security. 

For a deeper exploration of database compliance, check out our comprehensive guide. Now, we can dive into the nuances of Postgres data compliance. 

Core data compliance requirements

Compliance is required by various entities, from local governments to global industry associations. Data compliance covers four key areas:

  • Privacy: Privacy compliance involves adhering to laws and regulations that protect individuals' personal information from unauthorized access and misuse. It ensures organizations handle personal data responsibly, fostering trust and safeguarding individuals' rights to control their own information.
  • Protection: Data protection requirements are designed to secure data against loss, theft, or corruption, covering both digital and physical data storage and processing. Compliance ensures that sensitive information is adequately protected from breaches, ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • Industry standards: Industry standards refer to the specific sets of requirements and practices within particular sectors, such as finance, healthcare, or telecommunications, that govern how data is handled. Compliance with these standards ensures that organizations meet minimum safety, quality, and efficiency criteria, reducing risks and improving interoperability within industries.
  • Organizational policies: Organizational policies often dictate what roles can access what data at what level of security throughout a company to ensure internal and customer data is properly safeguarded.

Major regulatory mandates

Across the globe, major regulatory legislation is constantly evolving.  Here are some current regulatory mandates that heavily impact a database such as Postgres:

  • GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation ensures European Union citizens' control over their personal data, mandating significant data protection and privacy standards for handling personal information within and outside the EU.
  • CCPA: The California Consumer Privacy Act took inspiration from GDPR and set the standard for online protection in the United States, since many states have already adopted the standard. CCPA protects California residents, but because those residents can visit websites from any state in the union, even states outside California need to adhere to this guideline. 
  • SOX: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates accurate financial reporting and disclosure by US companies to prevent fraud, affecting how financial data is managed in databases.
  • HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects health information by requiring secure management of medical records and payment information, ensuring healthcare organizations allow patient access to view and correct their information.
  • GLBA: The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act governs how financial institutions must protect individuals' private financial information, necessitating stringent management and security of databases.
  • PCI DSS: The Payment Card Industry and Data Security Standard aims to minimize credit card fraud by enforcing strict data security standards for organizations handling credit card transactions.

These regulations collectively emphasize the importance of secure and compliant data management practices across various industries.

Essential components of data compliance

Any effective data compliance program must account for these fundamentals.

Policy

A policy is a set of guidelines that outlines how an organization manages and protects data, databases, and pipelines. It ensures compliance by defining standards and procedures that align with legal and regulatory requirements. Policies are like individual rules that, when combined, make up a robust data compliance posture. These rules must be strictly and consistently enforced.

Audits

Audits are systematic reviews conducted to assess whether an organization's data handling and storage practices comply with its policies and regulatory standards. They ensure compliance by identifying gaps and areas for improvement, allowing organizations to address issues before they become compliance violations.

Enforcement

Enforcement involves implementing governance mechanisms to ensure that data policies and regulations are followed throughout the pipeline, from development to databases. It ensures compliance by imposing penalties or corrective actions for violations, thus deterring non-compliant behaviors. Governance capabilities can also automatically reject database changes that would risk noncompliance and provide developers and DBAs with insight to remedy the problem.  

Reporting

Data compliance reporting is the process of collecting, analyzing, and documenting data-related activities to demonstrate compliance with policies and regulations. It ensures compliance by providing transparency and evidence that data management practices meet required standards. Compliance audits are typically a preceding stage in this process, while the report summarizes findings and actions needed.

Feedback

Feedback is the information received from employees, regulators, or auditors about the effectiveness of the data compliance strategy. It ensures compliance by highlighting successes and identifying areas that need adjustment, facilitating continuous improvement in data management practices.

Visibility

Visibility into the data and database management process gives teams. the ability to understand what data has changed, who has changed it, and when. Having clear visibility allows for reduced time to remediation and ease of auditing. As part of a broader pipeline and database observability program, this visibility allows data compliance workflows to benefit from continuous optimization informed by DevOps metrics

Postgres compliance features

PostgreSQL touts itself as "The world's most advanced open source database". PostgreSQL is celebrated for its open-source nature, extensive community support, and comprehensive documentation designed to assist users in installation, usage, and engagement with the PostgreSQL community.

Its enables compliance with features like these:

Advanced authentication mechanisms

PostgreSQL supports a variety of authentication methods, including password, Kerberos, LDAP, and more. This diversity allows organizations to implement the most appropriate authentication strategy for their security requirements, aiding compliance with regulations that mandate strong authentication controls.

Detailed access controls

PostgreSQL provides granular access control mechanisms, enabling administrators to define permissions at the level of tables, columns, and rows. This precision helps ensure that users access only the data they are authorized to, aligning with data protection and privacy standards.

Support for data encryption

PostgreSQL offers data encryption at rest and in transit, protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access. Encryption helps organizations comply with regulations that require the protection of personal and financial information by ensuring data confidentiality and security.

Postgres compliance challenges

Balancing innovation with regulatory adherence poses a strategic challenge as companies strive to leverage new technologies without compromising on compliance standards. This dynamic environment requires continuous monitoring and updating of compliance strategies, demanding significant resources and expertise. 

The most impactful challenges to maintaining robust and agile compliance for Postgres databases include: 

  • Downtime, which threatens compliance by potentially violating availability requirements set by regulatory standards. Downtime can also occur as a result of compliance issues occurring and needing to be addressed before going back online.
  • Long review cycles that delay the implementation of necessary updates to meet evolving regulatory demands.
  • Manual database change reviews and tracking that increase the risk of errors and omissions, making it hard to demonstrate adherence to regulatory standards.
  • Malware, which can compromise the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data, potentially leading to regulatory violations.

Thankfully, compliance-focused teams can bring a modern DevOps approach to data and database change management to overcome these challenges. 

Improve Postgres data compliance with database CI/CD automation 

Without automation, CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) fails at the database – and so does compliance.  Automating database compliance involves using tools and practices to systematically enforce coding standards, security policies, and regulatory requirements throughout the development lifecycle and data pipeline. 

This process ensures that database changes are automatically checked for compliance issues before integration or deployment, reducing the risk of non-compliance and facilitating faster, safer releases. 

Liquibase provides automated, secure, and compliant database change management pipelines that accelerate delivery and reduce toil. With Liquibase-automated pipelines, teams can track all data change events in a single place to understand what changed, who made the change, and when it happened. They can reduce time to remediation and simplify audit requirements while reducing downtime and eliminating manual, error-prone reviews. 

Database DevOps automation also enables teams to detect database drift by monitoring differences between changelogs and database state.  From the compliance perspective, teams benefit by having an easy, automatic way to Identify any accidental or malicious out-of-process changes so they can keep the business’s critical data secure.

Liquibase’s solutions for Postgres data compliance (and compliance automation across dozens more types) plays out across numerous features.

Automated database change quality checks

Automating database SQL change reviews for Postgres databases reduces human error, which is responsible for a significant number of data breaches and compliance issues. It ensures consistent, secure database updates, minimizing rework and improving pipeline flow. Liquibase Quality Checks support data compliance by automating the review process for database changes, ensuring that every alteration adheres to predefined policies and standards. This feature helps organizations enforce data governance and compliance automatically. By integrating Quality Checks into the deployment process, Liquibase ensures that all database changes are evaluated against compliance criteria before being applied, providing a robust audit trail and increasing overall data integrity and security. 

Controlled database access

Automating database access management, using secret management tools for traceability and security, ensures proper gates and gives alerts for any exceptions. Advanced governance capabilities allow for safe cross-team collaboration without unexpected privileges that can lead to out-of-process changes.

Schema drift detection

Database compliance automation protects against ransomware and malware attacks by alerting teams to differences in the database’s state that don’t align with its intended state. With context to enlighten teams on potential fixes, this capability ensures database integrity and guards against malicious code, maintaining system security and compliance.

Tracking and visibility

Integrating database change management into the automated CI/CD pipeline unlocks workflow and change operation metadata for granular tracking and observability. Teams can easily track all changes to Postgres databases in a single place to understand what changed, who made the change, and when it happened. This can reduce time to remediation and simplify audit requirements.

Database version control

Version control for databases is a systematic method to manage changes to the database schema, ensuring that every modification is tracked and versioned. This approach allows teams to understand changes over time, facilitating easier collaboration and rollback capabilities if needed.

Implementing version control in databases enhances compliance by providing a clear audit trail of who made changes, what changes were made, and when these changes occurred. It ensures that any alterations are in line with regulatory requirements and standards, reducing the risk of non-compliance and improving security measures. Database version control treats database change with the same rigor as application code, completing the CI/CD extension to the change management workflow. 

Automate Postgres data compliance

For more on how Liquibase addresses database and data compliance for Postgres and 60+ supported databases, check out: Streamlining Database Compliance with CI/CD Integration.

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