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What a SQL Injection Is (and How to Fix It)

Does your website have a web form – someplace where you ask your visitors to sign in with their name and password?

Do you know this probably makes your site susceptible to a SQL injection?

Have you heard of a SQL injection?

Are you aware of what a SQL injection can do to your site?

If you’re answering ‘no’ to those questions, you’ll want to read on. We're sharing here what a SQL injection is, how you can protect your site from one, and how you can fix your site when a SQL injection happens to you.

If you’ve heard of a SQL injection and think they’re a thing of the past, keep dreaming. They should be a thing of the past because we know about how to prevent them. Any yet, big companies still face SQL injection threats all the time, because proper safeguards are usually not in place. So, even you doubters, read on.

sql injection

What is a SQL injection?

First off, SQL stands for Structured Query Language.

A Structured Query Language (SQL) injection is a code injection technique used to attack data-driven applications. It’s the most common kind of attack on internet-facing SQL server databases, as any web application using dynamic SQL is at risk of a SQL injection.

A remote attacker adds Structured Query Language code to a web form input in order to access the resources or make changes to the data stored in the database they’re attacking. When they access the database via an over-privileged account, they can read, write, and delete content stored in the database. In the worst cases, the remote attacker finds a way to execute commands on the operating system – and that can lead to an escalation of damaging attacks.

Popular SQL injections include stealing passwords, leaking credit card information, and making changes to website content. Retailers are a common target.

What allows for the risk of a SQL injection?

(1) Weak input validation, (2) dynamic SQL without proper type-safe parameters, and (3) the use of over-privileged database logins – that’s what.

Most web forms do not have security in place to block inputs that are not names and passwords.

So, typically, a web form is built to recognize and authenticate expected names and passwords, and it’s built to deny incorrect names and passwords. But it’s not built securely enough to block coders who know how to inject code in place of the expected name and password input to override the system.

Absent proper security mechanisms, a remote attacker can use the input boxes on the web form to make their own request by code. And that request can be: download the whole database.

Just some commands in code to bypass authentication, and now that remote attacker has full charge over what you thought was secure – sensitive, and certainly private – information. Yikes! Yeah, we know…

What’s worse?

There are now automated SQL programs available. So, where a remote attacker used to have to enter a SQL injection input manually, an automated approach is now possible. With this automation, the likelihood of an attack and the damage wrought by an attack both increase.

Even the newest to coding can quickly and swiftly become SQL injection pros with programs to help them automate the function.

How can I protect against a SQL injection?

The good news is that a SQL injection is a fairly simple type of attack.

More good news: SQL injection attacks can be prevented (almost completely) by strict adherence to some basic coding best practices.

But, we do mean strict. There’s really no room for error.

So, emphasize security in the development of your website and web forms, and make sure your developers are up to code – pun intended.

Control the input values that the input boxes on your web forms will accept. Put another way, prevent user-supplied input that contains malicious SQL from breaking the logic of the query. By sanitizing your web forms in this way, you’ll make sure that user input can’t ever (or almost ever) break the query form.

Use type-safe SQL parameters for data access – with stored procedures and dynamic SQL. Because using a parameters collection means that inputs to the form will be taken as literal values and not as executable code. Also, a parameter collection will allow you to enforce checks on input type and length. An input that is an exception to the type and length of the good data in the database will be flagged as the exception it is – and this trigger warning will help you recognize the attacks your parameters collection are catching.

When dynamic SQL is the only option and parameterized SQL can’t be used, put escape routines in place to protect characters with special input meanings to a SQL server – like the single quotation mark, for example. Without escape routines, a special character can be used by a remote attacker to hack a SQL injection.

Access your database through an account that has restricted permissions in the database. This way you’ll minimize the chances of a remote attacker getting ahold of an over-privileged account and executing devastating (or, at best, crippling) commands in your operating system.

Don’t give detailed error messages to a user, in moments when your database does err. With this as the default, you’re sharing information with users who might be erring on their way to breaking into your system. Keep your information to yourself, or you’ll be aiding remote attackers in their trial and error efforts to infiltrate your server.

How can I fix a SQL injection?

SecPoint to the rescue.

Need guidance putting these safeguards in place? Or, did you already put all those protections in place and you still had bad luck?

We’re IT security solutions experts, and we want to make sure your website is secure.

Our cloud penetration scans for SQL injection will help identify vulnerabilities in your system. Then we’ll work together to strengthen them.

We’re global, so no matter where you are (or when you are) we’re ready to help.

Get in touch, and sign up for your free vulnerability scan today.

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