A Major Threat to Business: SQL Injection Attack  

Data is a shiny new toy in the hands of businesses and criminals alike. If a web application or website uses databases to store information, it is vulnerable to attack. All consider a database valuable, but are people aware of the risks?

With technology becoming more personal, cheaper, more prevalent, and more advanced, it’s no wonder that user data is floating around for everyone to see. We live in a golden age of data where some companies use analytics to do business better, and others use it to make their products or projects more secure from hacking.

When a website uses SQL databases like Oracle, SQL Server, or MySQL, they are vulnerable to very serious and sometimes catastrophic SQL injection attacks. The seriousness of this kind of attack is regarded by many as worse than even cross-site scripting and XSS due to how much more massive amounts of data can be compromised (and at a faster rate, no less).


What is a SQL Database? 

SQL, an abbreviation of Structured Query Language, is a programming language that makes it easy for application developers and relevant stakeholders to access and store data within a relational database.

SQL is structured and has the word “query,” which refers to a specific language in SQL. It’s used as a communication tool between different applications by creating apps with contexts for:

  • Application data
  • Application code

In SQL, a structure (a.k.a. context) identifies the code you’re about to execute and separates it from the actual data for processing by the computer.


What is a SQL Injection Attack?

SQL Injection is a type of injection attack that a hacker launches by inputting untrusted input to exploit a flaw in an application’s source code to interfere with the SQL query an application makes to its database.

The purpose of an SQL injection attack is to bypass security restrictions and/or access unauthorized data for malicious purposes.

A successful SQLi attack allows an attacker to manipulate and alter information about the database server, modify sensitive data, execute administrative tasks exceeding most user rights and extract information from the system. The severity of SQLi attacks varies, however, depending on how they are carried out, with direct attacks generally easier to deal with than blind ones.


What are 2 types of Injection Attacks?

There are 2 key types of SQL injection, each with its characteristics, attack techniques, and functions.

  1. Error-Based SQL injection
  2. Blind Based SQL injection


How dangerous are SQL injections?

With no mitigating controls and an insecure database, malicious hackers could steal all personal information. In addition, SQL Injection attacks can lead to serious database corruption, creating the risk of confidential data loss or the ability to hijack your database. 

What passwords hashed by MD5 could do to data privacy could be understood when Freepik reported leaks of 8.3 million Email addresses and 3.7 million hashed passwords. Out of the 3.7 million accounts, a majority were found to have been compromised. Of the 3.55 million passwords that had been hashed using bcrypt, 1,397 were not secure enough and had been cracked by hackers.

Based on the recent Zero-day vulnerability report from Indusface, SQL injection constantly remains the leading driver in the top Five Vulnerability Categories.

It goes without saying that in some cases, Attackers can pass malicious payloads to the underlying database operating system.


What are the 3 Impacts of SQL injection on your applications?

Steal Data: Hackers often launch an SQL injection attack by exploiting websites or apps via SQLi and then trying to obtain crucial information like CB Identity Tokens, usernames, and passwords. Once accessed, they keep trying until they get those user specifications. After that, they impersonate the user and use their privileges on the platform to access any data they want.

Database Information: A hacker may leverage a vulnerability in a web application to manipulate the data held within a database.

By querying the database, a hacker can gain unauthorized administrative rights and manipulate tables that can pose highly detrimental problems to your business. Buoyed by SELECT, he can get detailed information about usernames, passwords, and data.

Lateral movement: Compromising an endpoint or server, cybercriminals regularly trespass through a network to obtain privileges and access through lateral movement techniques. This allows them to enter different applications and nodes. Additionally, they can access more than one set of protected data/people in the infected network with privileged access.


Recap of 3 Real-life SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks have been on many websites, social media marketing sites, and big business centres.

The three that perished are:

SQL injection attacks on Heartland Payment Systems– A payment processing company, were attacked by injecting SQL queries into their network.

Result? Loss of 130 million credit card numbers and over $130 million were stolen.


GhostShell SQL injection attack on Universities- Hackers with the Advanced Persistent Threat group Team GhostShell, launched an SQL injection attack exploiting website vulnerability, targeting 53 universities.

Result? Over 36,000 records from students, staff, and faculty were stolen.


SQL injection on TalkTalk – In October 2015, Talktalk customers were instructed to change their email and online account passwords after the telecommunications provider experienced a data breach.

Result? A record £400,000 fine on TalkTalk


How to prevent SQL injection attacks?

Follow these steps to prevent SQL injection attacks, thereby you can increase the level of safety on all your web technologies serving data through a database connection.


Escape user inputs

When you want to ensure your website is protected against injection attacks, it’s important to make sure that the data being sent through your back end is properly sanitized before being used. Injection of any possible characters would allow an outside party to modify or inject data with malicious intent.


Continuous vulnerability scans and testing

Two key pieces can help you prevent SQL injection attacks. The first is to have a continuous testing process, and the second is to eliminate attack surfaces on APIs and websites. The idea is to continuously check the security of your software using a vulnerability scanner. So that you find any flaws with the code should they exist and can fix them promptly. It also makes sure no hackers would be able to find something they can use against you or your business.


Avoid administrative privileges

It’s important to enforce the least privilege in the database. For example, you wouldn’t want just any user in your organization to have complete access to the tables containing user data, but only those who need access to do their job. This enforces the least privilege on the database and ensures that other people who may not need access can’t gain unauthorized access to information they shouldn’t have.


Employ managed WAF

A managed web application firewall can be deployed for immediate mitigation of SQL injection attacks as it contains custom policies to block any suspicious input and deny information breaches instantly. This prevention system can prevent fault injection exploits, attack vector-based payloads, and known common evasions (EAR, NLP, base64 encoded, etc.).

Web application firewalls like AppTrana WAF are very useful for detecting and patching holes in applications before they get exploited and cause problems. However, suppose the code cannot be fixed in a timely manner after deployment. In that case, an alternative is to use the web application firewall in order to deploy security updates or workarounds that will prevent attacks or mitigate risks on demand.



The best defense against SQLi attacks is preparation. Please ensure you actively test your application and mitigate potential security threats before they become problems by using intelligent, comprehensive vulnerability management tools like Indusface WAF that cover a web application’s security essentials

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