What You Need to Know About SQL Injection Attacks

Sep 26, 2019

What You Need to Know About SQL Injection Attacks Image

You may be wondering, “What is a SQL injection attack?” and “Should I even be concerned about SQL injection?” Well, Do you remember the data breach that occurred to Heartland Payments, the sixth-largest payments processor in the U.S., back in 2009? The data breach occurred by an SQL injection attack which compromised approximately 100 million credit cards and more than 650 financial services companies. The estimated cost was $300 million, making it the largest criminal breach of card data to ever occur. SQL injection attacks aren’t as popular as phishing or malware attacks but have been around for decades. With this in mind, let’s review what an SQL injection attack is, how it works, and how to utilize SQL injection prevention.

What is an SQL Injection?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is the language used by developers, database administrators, and applications to manage the massive amounts of data being generated every day by organizations. An SQL Injection is known as a web security vulnerability and is one of the most dangerous attacks found in closed source applications. This type of attack allows the hacker to have complete control over an organization’s database by inserting arbitrary SQL code into database queries. It’s important to note that SQL injections occur because of flaws in web application development and are not database or web server issues.

There are multiple ways a hacker can inject SQL code into a database. These include:

  • User input through a form 
  • Modification of cookies to inject SQL into the back-end database 
  • Use of server variables such as HTTP headers to inject into the database

Attackers can even use an SQL injection attack to compromise the server and back-end infrastructure or make database drive applications unavailable (denial-of-service attack).

A computer at risk for a SQL injection attack.A computer at risk for a SQL injection attack.

SQL Injection Prevention: What You Need to Know

Managing your database security is an important aspect of minimizing risk in your organization and preventing a data breach from happening. Your organization’s database not only hosts your users’ connections but automated connections such as backups, reporting to servers, data integration, and app integrations, among others. Implementing cybersecurity best practices including having Managed Detection and Response (MDR), with continued vulnerability and penetration testing will help protect from SQL injection attacks, stolen passwords, and brute-force attempts. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has many helpful resources like their SQL injection cheat sheet which provides guidance for preventing SQL injection flaws in applications. This helpful cheat sheet includes six defenses that we will breakdown so you can prevent a SQL injection from harming your business.

 1. Use of Prepared Statements (With Parameterized Queries)

All developers should be taught how to write database queries with the use of prepared statements with parameterized queries. These simple queries are easy to write and understand, more so than dynamic queries. Prepared statements are the first defense against a SQL injection attack. This ensures that an attacker cannot change the intent of a query. The method of prepared statements is preferred by developers since all SQL code stays in the application and allows it to be relatively database independent. 

2. Stored Procedures

While this is a method in SQL injection prevention, it’s not always guaranteed, but certain programming structures can have the same effect as parameterized queries. The biggest difference between stored procedures and prepared statements is the SQL code for the stored procedure is stored and defined in the database itself. All in all, when implemented correctly, both of these methods do the same thing and it comes down to what is best for your organization.

 3. Whitelist Input Validation

This is typically recommended as a secondary defense in every case. Whitelist input validation is used to ensure that user input can be converted to a non-String. This protects information so user input doesn’t end up in the query. 

4. Escaping All User-Supplied Input

Typically used as a last resort, this method is implemented when the above defense mechanisms are not feasible. This is not guaranteed to prevent SQL injection in all types of situations. The idea of this is to escape user input before putting it in a query. However, this is very database specific in its implementation. This technique should only be used on a case-by-case basis and shouldn’t be the first line of defense.

5. Enforcing Least Privilege

Used to provide additional defense, enforcing lease privilege is used to minimize the potential damage of a SQL injection attack. This is done by minimizing the privileges assigned to each database account in your environment.

6. Performing White List Input Validation as a Secondary Defense

Last but not least, this is a reiteration of defense #3 but utilized as a secondary defense. As we mentioned above, this is typically a secondary defense and should rarely be used as the first line of defense. So, you can combine White List Input Validation with the other methods listed above to create a stronger defense. 

A team working on SQL injection prevention.A team working on SQL injection prevention.

Secuvant is Here to Help Prevent SQL Injection

As the cyber security landscape continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever to enhance your database and web application security and protect your organization from strategic hackers. That’s where Secuvant steps in. With our expansive list of cyber security services, we’re here to help your business put up every defense against unwanted cyber attacks. These services include:

Through these services, we are able to assist your company by monitoring for attacks, preventing them, and, in the case something happens, responding quickly and restoring security. Our team is here to ensure that your important information is protected with defenses up, so you can have peace of mind when it comes to your cyber security. For more information on SQL injection attacks or how Secuvant can help you implement a Cyber Security Program, reach out to us at contactus@secuvant.com or 855-732-8826.