How to Guard Your Database Against SQL Injection Attacks
July 17, 2023, 7 min read
As a web security flaw, SQL injection (SQLi) allows an attacker to manipulate database queries. Data that would typically be inaccessible to an attacker becomes visible. This could be the user’s data, the application’s data, or data belonging to other users. An attacker can often change or remove this information, permanently altering the application’s state or behavior.
A malicious user can escalate an SQL injection attack into a full-blown server compromise or a denial-of-service assault in certain circumstances.
What is a SQL Injection Attack?
SQL injection attack is a cyberattack in which an attacker injects malicious SQL statements into a web application’s input box to gain unauthorized access to its database. The attacker can then steal sensitive information, modify or delete data, or even take control of the entire database. SQL injection attacks can be devastating, bypassing authentication systems and giving attackers complete control of the targeted system. Preventing SQL injection attacks requires implementing proper security measures such as input validation and parameterized queries to sanitize user input and ensure that it does not contain malicious code.
To protect against SQL Injection attacks, it is crucial to implement secure coding practices, such as using parameterized queries or prepared statements, input validation and sanitization, and enforcing principle of least privilege. Regular security assessments and vulnerability scans can also help identify and mitigate potential SQL Injection vulnerabilities.
When is SQL Injection Used?
SQL Injection attacks are commonly used in scenarios where an attacker wants to bypass authentication mechanisms, extract sensitive data, modify or delete database records, or even gain control over the underlying server. The success of an SQL Injection attack depends on the vulnerabilities present in the target application and the attacker’s knowledge of the database structure and query syntax.
1. Installing the text could be made more effective by adding specific examples of SQL injection attacks that have occurred in the past. This would help readers understand the severity and impact of these attacks.
2. The text could be improved by including some tips or best practices for preventing SQL injection attacks. This would provide readers with actionable steps to protect their web applications.
3. The text could benefit from a more conversational tone to make it more engaging and easier to read. We can achieve this by using simpler language and breaking up long sentences into shorter ones. The attackers inject malicious SQL code into a database to gain access to data that the user was never meant to see. This type of attack is known as SQL injection or SQLI. Sensitive company data, user lists, and private customer details are all examples of the types of information that fall under this category.
There are many ways in which SQL injection can damage a company. In the worst-case scenario, an attacker could gain administrative access to a database and use it to view user lists, delete entire tables, or steal sensitive information.
When considering the potential cost of a scale, one should factor in the loss of customer trust due to the theft of sensitive information like phone numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers.
While any SQL database is vulnerable to this vector, websites are particularly vulnerable because they are the most common targets.
Is SQL injection a Cyber Attack?
Yes, SQL injection is a cyber attack targeting databases and web applications. It involves injecting malicious SQL code into a vulnerable database or web application to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or manipulate the data within the database. SQL injection attacks can steal sensitive information such as login credentials, financial data, and personal information.They can also use them to modify or delete data, potentially causing damage to the affected system and the business or organization it belongs to. It is essential to prevent SQL injection attacks, such as implementing input validation and parameterized queries.
Successful SQL injections can cause serious problems for any organization or person. Restoring compromised data integrity can be highly challenging after a data breach.
An application (like a website) that requests user input before performing a lookup in a database or against the database itself can launch injection attacks against databases. The OWASP Top 10 application security risk list highlights SQL injection attacks as a significant business concern.
How to Safeguard Against SQL Injection?
Ensuring no fields accept invalid inputs that could lead to the execution of code is a critical step in preventing or mitigating SQL injection attacks. When updates are frequent, and user-friendliness is a top priority, manually checking every page and applying it on the website is impossible. Security experts and seasoned programmers agree on a few things you should do to keep your database safe within the server.
Interruption-Free Scanning and Penetration Testing
SQL Injection is a malicious technique used by attackers to exploit vulnerabilities in a web application’s database layer. It is typically used when a web application does not properly validate user input or sanitize data before incorporating it into SQL queries. Attackers can inject malicious SQL code into input fields, such as login forms or search boxes, with the intention of manipulating the database and potentially gaining unauthorized access to sensitive information.
For a long time, the automated web application scanner has been the best option for highlighting vulnerabilities within web applications. Website security professionals should now consider manual testing with the assistance of a security vendor as SQL injections become more sophisticated in exploiting logical flaws.
They can verify user inputs by comparing them to a defined syntax, data type, and length standard. Auditing applications regularly helps fix the code before hackers can exploit it.
Privileges Should Be Limited
Enforcing specific privileges to specific accounts can mitigate blind SQL injection attacks. This function falls under the realm of database management. We start with a “guest” account and progress through “read-only,” “edit,” “delete,” and so on.
The attacker who gains access to the database via the application cannot access any particular data unless they increase the permissions of the application.
Make Use Of Query Parameters
Problems arising from dynamic queries are a common source of frustration for information security experts. Different applications have different security flaws, becoming more severe over time. You should use parameters in your queries to get the most out of your search.
Composing these queries straightforwardly and appropriately defining all SQL parameters will ensure their success. This equips your data with tools to detect and reject code while retaining all relevant information.
Most businesses can’t deal with issues like application security vulnerabilities, frequent updates, and insufficient testing resources. Protecting web applications is the best way to avoid these problems.
Immediate protection against such attacks can be set up by deploying a managed web application firewall. Individualized policies are in place to immediately deny access to any malicious data and prevent any potentially harmful input. This eliminates the need to search for vulnerabilities and fix issues after the fact manually.
Queries With Parameters
When inserting a user-provided value into a query, we can use a prepared statement with a question mark placeholder (“?”). This is highly efficient and secure against attacks (barring a severe flaw in the JDBC driver’s code).
This interface is an extension of the standard Statement interface that provides several methods for inserting user-supplied values into a query in a secure manner before execution.
Have a Comparable Function for JPA
As expected, the ORM layer generates a prepared statement with a stub for the customerId parameter. This is the same as with regular JDBC but with fewer statements.
Most databases can cache the query plan associated with a prepared statement, so this method typically results in a better-performing query.
This method applies only to values used in place of placeholders. To give just one example, we can’t use placeholders to alter the name of a table on-the-fly.
API for the JPA Criteria 3.2
Whenever possible, we should prefer using the JPA’s Query API because explicit JQL query building most commonly causes SQL Injections.
Quickly familiarize yourself with this API by reading the related article on Hibernate Criteria queries. For more information on eliminating runtime bugs caused by column name changes, check out our article on JPA Metamodel, which demonstrates how to generate metamodel classes to do so.
Despite its wordiness, the Criteria API simplifies and secures the development of complex query services. Look at the method utilized by JHipster-generated applications to comprehensively illustrate this in action.
Removing Potentially Identifiable Information From User Data (Sanitization)
When a user enters information into our application, we actively employ a process called “data sanitization” to ensure that it cleans the information enough to be used elsewhere. Although there is considerable variation in how filters implement, we can divide them into two broad categories: allowlists and blocklists.
Although blacklists, made up of filters that attempt to identify an invalid pattern, can be helpful for detection, they are typically of little use in SQL Injection prevention. There will be further explanations in the future.
However, allow lists, perform best when we know what constitutes valid input.
How Common are SQL Injections?
According to Statista, in 2022, SQL Injection accounted for 33 percent of globally found critical vulnerabilities in web applications, making it the primary source. It was followed by cross-site scripting (stored) attacks, which contributed to 26.7 percent of internet-facing essential vulnerabilities.
SQL injections are a typical cyber attack that targets websites and web applications. According to various reports and studies, SQL injection attacks are among the top 10 most common types of cyber attacks. In fact, in some cases, SQL injection attacks have been responsible for many data breaches. Therefore, organizations must take proactive measures to prevent SQL injection attacks, such as regularly updating and patching their software, implementing input validation, and using parameterized queries.
Overall, SQL Injection is a serious security concern that can have severe consequences if not addressed properly. It underscores the importance of robust web application security practices to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of data stored in databases.