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SQLi: How It Works, Part 1

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SQLi: How It Works, Part 1

SQL injection is one of the oldest attacks known to cybercriminals. Learn what SQL injection is, and how cyberattackers can exploit your vulnerable code.

· Security Zone
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Discover how to provide active runtime protection for your web applications from known and unknown vulnerabilities including Remote Code Execution Attacks.

In this 6-part series on SQLi (SQL Injection) we shall be describing the vulnerability and its variants, showing how it works and what an attacker can do with it.

SQL injection (SQLi) refers to an injection attack wherein an attacker can execute malicious SQL statements (also commonly referred to as a malicious payload) that control a web application’s database server (also commonly referred to as a Relational Database Management System – RDBMS). Since a SQL injection vulnerability could possibly affect any website or web application that makes use of a SQL-based database, the vulnerability is one of the oldest, most prevalent, and most dangerous web application vulnerabilities.

By leveraging a SQLi vulnerability, given the right circumstances, an attacker can use it to bypass a web application’s authentication and authorization mechanisms and retrieve the contents of an entire database. SQL injection can also be used to add, modify, and delete records in a database, affecting data integrity.

To such an extent, SQL injection can provide an attacker with unauthorized access to sensitive data including, customer data, personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, intellectual property, and other sensitive information.

How SQLi Works

In order to run malicious SQL queries against a database server, an attacker must first find an input within the web application that is included inside of a SQL query.

In order for a SQL injection attack to take place, the vulnerable website needs to directly include user input within a SQL statement. An attacker can then insert a payload that will be included as part of the SQL query and run against the database server.

The following server-side pseudo-code is used to authenticate users to the web application.

# Define POST variables
uname = request.POST['username']
passwd = request.POST['password']

# SQL query vulnerable to SQLi
sql = “SELECT id FROM users WHERE username=’” + uname + “’ AND password=’” + passwd + “’”

# Execute the SQL statement
database.execute(sql)

The above script is a simple example of authenticating a user with a username and a password against a database with a table named 'users,' and a username and password column.

The above script is vulnerable to SQL injection because an attacker could submit malicious input in such a way that would alter the SQL statement being executed by the database server.

A simple example of a SQL injection payload could be something as simple as setting the password field to: password’ OR 1=1.

This would result in the following SQL query being run against the database server.

SELECT id FROM users WHERE username=’username’ AND password=’password’ OR 1=1’

An attacker can also comment out the rest of the SQL statement to control the execution of the SQL query further.

-- MySQL, MSSQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQLite
' OR '1'='1' --
' OR '1'='1' /*
-- MySQL
' OR '1'='1' #
-- Access (using null characters)
' OR '1'='1' %00
' OR '1'='1' %16


Once the query executes, the result is returned to the application to be processed, resulting in an authentication bypass. In the event that an authentication bypass is possible, the application will most likely log the attacker in with the first account from the query result – the first account in a database is usually of an administrative user.

Stay tuned for Part 2! 

Find out how Waratek’s award-winning application security platform can improve the security of your new and legacy applications and platforms with no false positives, code changes or slowing your application.

Topics:
security ,sql injection ,vulnerabilities

Published at DZone with permission of Ian Muscat, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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