An SQL injection attacks refers to an insert SQL query that attackers apply to the input fields that are later processed by the SQL database in question. The database is later abused if it has weaknesses, and user-generated malicious SQL statements are directly made to query the database. 

The above statements will control the database server that lies behind the web application. The attackers deploy SQL injection weaknesses to bypass the security measures of the application. They later spread to authorization and authentication functions of the web application or web pages to retrieve the database’s entire content. They use SQL injection for the addition, modification, and deletion of records in the database system. 

One of the most dangerous cyber threats to beware of 

Any SQL injection weakness or vulnerability will affect the website or web application that uses an SQL database like Oracle, MySQL, the SQL server, and others. Cybercriminals will use it for gaining unauthorized access to business-critical data like trade secrets, customer data, personal data, intellectual property, and lots more.

Experienced and skilled DBAs specializing in data management and security state that SQL injection attacks are among the most prevalent, oldest, and dangerous vulnerabilities in your web applications. Even the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP Organization) lists SQL injection attacks in their 2017 OWASP Top 10 document as the number one cyber threat to a web application’s security. 

How do cybercriminals execute an SQL injection attack? 

The attacker needs to search for a vulnerability user input in the web page or application to carry an SQL injection attack. Once detected, the attacker will use the user vulnerability input in the SQL query selected and creates content for the input. This content is known as a malicious payload and is the vital component of the attack. When the attacker sends the above query, the malicious SQL commands subsequently are incorporated into the system. 

SQL is a database query language that was designed for managing the data in relational databases. It can be used for accessing, modifying, and deleting data. There are several web applications as well as websites that store data in SQL systems. You can even deploy SQL commands for running commands in the operating systems in a few cases. The above shows that if an SQL injection attack is successful, it will have very grave and serious consequences for a business. 

What are the Reasons for SQL injection attacks 

The following are the key reasons for an SQL attack- 

  • Attackers deploy SQL injections to search for the credentials of other database users in the system. They often impersonate them, and, in most cases, the user is a database administrator with complete database privileges. 
  • SQL allows you to choose and output data from the system. If there is SQL injection vulnerability, the attacker will gain full access to the whole data located in the database server. 
  • SQL helps you to change the data in the system and add new information. For instance, in financial applications, the attacker might use SQL injection for altering account balances, executing void transactions, or transfer sums of money into their accounts. 
  • SQL allows you to delete records from the database system and even drop tables. This means if the administrator carries out database backups, the deletion of the data will adversely affect the application’s availability until the database gets restored. At the same time, backups might not cover the latest and most recently added information. 
  • In some system servers, you can access the OS with the database server. This can either be accidental or intentional. In such cases, the attacker uses the SQL injection in the initial vector and attacks the internal network behind any. 

How can you stop SQL injection attacks in general? 

The following are some generic tips recommended by a leading company in database management, administration, and consulting, RemoteDBA.com, on how you can stop SQL injection attacks for your organization- 

  1. Awareness and training To keep all your web applications safe, you must ensure that everyone involved with it is trained about SQL injection attacks and the threats it has to your company. It is mandatory that security training be given to all your system admins, DevOps specialists, and QA professionals. 
  2. Never trust user input – Make sure that you mistrust all user input. Any user input in a SQL query paves the way for an SQL injection. Consider inputs from an authenticated user or any internal user in the same manner via which you would treat a public input. 
  3. Deploy whitelists and not blacklists – Never filter user inputs that are based on blacklists. If the attacker is smart and clever, he or she will discover ways to circumvent the blacklist. Where possible, always verify and then filter the user input with whitelists that are very strict only. 
  4. Embrace the latest technologies – Note that the older technologies that revolve around web development do not have SQLi protection. This is why you should deploy the latest version of the development language and environment and the latest technologies linked to that language or environment. Take, for example, the case of PHP. You can use PDO instead of deploying MySQLi.
  5. Verified mechanisms You should never attempt to build SQL injection attack protection from the basics. You will find that most modern web development technologies offer you potent mechanisms for protection against such attacks. You must deploy such protections instead of starting from scratch. For example, in the above case, you can use stored procedures or parameterized queries. 
  6. Scan web applications regularly – You should scan web applications regularly to ensure there are no threats present. 

Therefore, you must keep the above points in mind when it comes to preventing SQL injection attacks. At the same time, you should ensure that you have an expert team of DBAs taking care of your SQL databases round-the-clock. They should proactively monitor the system to keep threats at bay.

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