Cybercrime Protection: How to Deal with an SQL Injection Attack

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Knowing how to mitigate an SQL injection attack is crucial to maintaining the security of your database and preventing unauthorized access or manipulation of your data.

In 2023, an SQL injection attack is still one of the most common types of website attacks, taking less than 10 seconds to launch one against a vulnerable website.

According to CVE Details, which chronicles ‘common vulnerabilities and exposures’, in 2022, 1162 SQL injection vulnerabilities were added to its public database.

A 2020 vulnerability statistics report by Edgescan had revealed that 42% of cyber attacks on public-facing IT systems were based on the method of SQL injection.

In this article, Bocasay, our offshore IT agency based in Vietnam, provides an overview of all you need to know in order to secure your business against SQL injection attacks.

How will you deal with an SQL injection attack?
How will you deal with an SQL injection attack?

What is an SQL Injection Attack and How does it Work?

SQL injection is a type of cyber attack that occurs when an attacker is able to insert, manipulate, or execute malicious SQL (Structured Query Language) code within a database query. The goal of an SQL injection attack is typically to gain unauthorized access to a database, retrieve, modify, or delete data, as well as perform other malicious actions.

This is how an SQL injection attack typically functions:

User Input: Web applications often take user inputs through forms, URL parameters, or other means.

Improperly Handled Input: If the application does not properly validate, sanitize, or parameterize user inputs, an attacker can inject malicious SQL code into the input fields.

Manipulating SQL Queries: The injected SQL code becomes part of the query that is sent to the database. This can lead to the alteration of the original query’s logic or execution.

Unauthorized Database Access: With successful SQL injection, an attacker can bypass authentication, retrieve sensitive data, modify or delete records, or even execute administrative commands on the database server.

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Types of SQL Injection Attacks

  • Classic SQL Injection: Involves injecting malicious SQL code into input fields.
  • Blind SQL Injection: Attackers exploit the vulnerability without directly retrieving the results. They infer the success of their injection by observing the application’s behavior.
  • Time-Based Blind SQL Injection: This type of SQL injection exploits delays in the application’s response to infer information about the database.

SQL Injection Attack Case Study: The Equifax Data Breach

One of the prominent and widely publicized SQL injection attacks in the last 10 years is the “2017 Equifax Data Breach.” Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the world, suffered a massive data breach that exposed sensitive personal information of millions of individuals. While the breach itself involved a combination of vulnerabilities, including an unpatched software flaw, SQL injection played a key role in the attack.

The Equifax data breach had significant repercussions, leading to widespread concerns about identity theft and financial fraud. The incident also resulted in legal and regulatory actions against Equifax, with the company facing criticism for its handling of the breach and its aftermath. This incident underscores the importance of comprehensive security practices, including regular patching, secure coding practices and thorough vulnerability assessments, in order to protect against a range of potential threats, including SQL injection attacks.

Essential Steps for Handling an SQL Injection Attack

Here are some key steps you can take in order to handle and prevent SQL injection attacks:

  1. Input Validation:

    1. Validate all user inputs, whether they come from web forms, URL parameters, or any other sources.

    1. Use parameterized queries or prepared statements to ensure that user inputs are treated as data and not executable code.

  2. Parameterized Queries/Prepared Statements:

    1. Instead of constructing SQL queries by linking strings, use parameterized queries or prepared statements provided by your programming language or database library.

    1. Parameterized queries separate the SQL code from user input, making it more difficult for attackers to inject malicious code.

  3. Stored Procedures:

    1. Use stored procedures whenever possible. Stored procedures can help prevent SQL injection by allowing you to define and control the SQL logic on the database server.

  4. Least Privilege Principle:

    1. Ensure that database user accounts used by your application have the minimum required permissions. Avoid using accounts with excessive privileges that could be exploited if compromised.

  5. Regularly Update and Patch:

    1. Keep your database management system (DBMS) and application software up-to-date with the latest security patches. This helps to protect against known vulnerabilities.

  6. Web Application Firewalls (WAF):

    1. Implement a Web Application Firewall to filter and monitor HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet. WAFs can help detect and block SQL injection attempts.

  7. Error Handling:

    1. Implement customized error handling to display user-friendly error messages without revealing sensitive information about your database structure. Log detailed error messages internally for debugging purposes.

  8. Input Sanitization:

    1. Sanitize and validate user input on both the client and server sides. This helps to ensure that only expected and safe data is sent to the database.

  9. Security Audits and Code Reviews:

    1. Regularly perform security audits and code reviews to identify and address potential vulnerabilities in your application code.

  10. Educate Developers:

    1. Regularly train your development team about secure coding practices, including how to prevent and detect SQL injection vulnerabilities.

  11. Database Monitoring:

    1. Implement monitoring solutions to detect unusual or suspicious database activity. This can help you identify and respond to a potential SQL injection attack in real-time.

  12. Back-up and Recovery:

    1. Back-up your database frequently and ensure that you have a robust recovery plan in place. This helps you recover quickly in the event of a successful attack.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, if you suspect or confirm an SQL injection attack, take immediate action to address the vulnerability, sanitize and validate user input, and most importantly, closely inspect your database for any unauthorized changes. Additionally, consider hiring dedicated cyber security experts to help assess and mitigate the impact of the attack.

Are you looking to build a tech team in Vietnam that can deliver top-tier IT development for your business? Bocasay offers just that, with our dedicated teams of developers who specialize in creating innovative software solutions for global companies. Contact us today to discover how we can contribute to the success of your upcoming project.

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