Vulnerabilities in the latest version of Oracle's database leave the system vulnerable to attacks from hackers. That according to security expert Alexander Kornbrust, who has warned that Oracle's 11g release - while more secure than its predecessors - does offer enough flaws for attackers to steal data.

"Oracle made big progress with 11g, but some of the vulnerabilities I've found so far in 11g are stupid programming errors," said Kornbrust, managing director of Red Database Security, during an interview at the Hack In The Box (HITB) Security Conference 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Oracle must educate their own development team because they should normally avoid these simple security vulnerabilities," Kornbrust said.

Kornbrust, who helps large companies audit the security of their Oracle databases, examined the software and found SQL injection vulnerabilities, which allow attackers to run malicious code. He also uncovered a way to circumvent the auditing capability in 11g and other versions of the database, which could undermine a company's compliance efforts.

While Kornbrust plans to discuss some Oracle vulnerabilities at HITB, he has no plans to detail his method for bypassing the auditing capability until Oracle has fixed the problem.

Some of the problems that Kornbrust uncovered reflect architectural problems with Oracle's database. In a talk scheduled for later this week, he plans to demonstrate how architectural problems allow attackers to "bypass and avoid" Oracle's latest security tools, including Oracle Database Vault and Oracle Audit Vault.

The cost and time required to fix a vulnerability in Oracle's database can be staggering because of the critical role the software plays in the business of large companies, and the wide range of platforms that Oracle supports, Kornbrust said.

Citing the example of one German company that has 8,000 Oracle databases, Kornbrust said rolling out a single patch can require 32,000 hours of labour, or four hours per database. That translates into 60 full-time database administrators and doesn't take into account the time and expense required for testing the patch on each database, he said.

Moreover, for each vulnerability that gets patched, Oracle must develop a patch for every version of its database that's supported, with a version of each for every hardware platform and operating system the database runs on. That amounts to around 100 separate patches for every vulnerability, Kornbrust said.

Oracle executives were not available for comment.