SQL Injection Attack Explained & How to Prevent

Structured Query Language, or SQL, is the language used to facilitate communication to and from databases. As the word database suggests, this is where the data for any company is stored, so this language is a majorly important aspect for any business’ operations. An SQL query is typically set to return the specific information from the database that the company is looking to review, such as customer name, location, and purchase amount, for one example. The ability to “speak” SQL is one of the knowledge areas that is key to accomplishing things like closing the cybersecurity skills gap and protecting vital data at a deeper level.

What is an SQL Injection Attack?

SQL Injection (SQLi) is a vulnerability in the usual, intended SQL communications. This creates the opportunity for a malicious actor to interrupt this digital conversation occurring to and from the database, allowing for the precious data being “discussed” to be accessed without permission. The cybercriminal uninvitedly injects themselves into the dialogue and can use this to do many malicious actions.

Once the SQLi attacker inserts themselves into this discussion, they can use this access to view the data that the employee was trying to view. They can also modify the SQL search to return additional, usually more personally identifying, information or simply interrupt the intended operations to pull incorrect information, disrupting the business’ operations. This attack can also be used to review the contents of the database, or to steal them and hold them for ransom. Whatever the attacker’s intended reason for entry, it is best to do whatever you can to not let them in their in order to prevent the mitigation and recovery associated with such an attack.

How to Prevent

As mentioned above, the best thing to do with this or any other cyber attack is to have a preventative, defensive approach as opposed to a reactive approach which is usually more costly to the company in more ways than one. To prevent an SQL injection attack, there are a few routes you can take.

Use Parameterized Queries — When the SQL searches have parameters, it is known as variable binding or searching with parameterized queries. These used in conjunction with prepared statements is the typical initial approach to how professionals are taught to do these searches. Parameterized queries make the developer have to define the query code and then search by each parameter outlined. This coding style allows the database to distinguish between code and data, regardless of what user input is supplied.

Enact Least Privilege Protocols — By limiting the number users who have privilege to access databases, you limit the number of entry points available as well as limit the access to only those who need it. This means only granting access to folks who will work in the database and not assigning a generic database administrator.

Password Hashing — Do not store plain-text passwords in a database; this seems like a common sense practice, but it is a major security issue that many companies do not actively work to not do. Applications should store any passwords in strong, one-way hashes which helps to further protect this data, making it far more difficult for cybercriminals to access them to use for malicious gain.

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