4 SQL Injection Techniques For Stealing Data

Published on: 2018-11-20

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I’m not advocating that you start using SQL injection to start stealing other people’s data.

However, I do think that you should familiarize yourself with the various SQL injection techniques so that you will be better prepared to prevent them from happening in your own queries.

The rest of this post will go over four common techniques used for extracting information from SQLServer, as well as simple solutions to prevent them. 

We’ll be looking at all of these techniques directly in SQL Server, but be aware that all of this information is potentially obtainable from an app front-end as well.

UNION-Based Attacks

Perhaps the easiest way for a hacker to retrieve additional data from an injection vulnerable query is through a UNION-based attack.

A UNION-based injection attack adds a UNION or UNION ALL statement to your original stored procedure query, effectively returning any data requested by the second query.

 Let’s say we have a stored procedure that returns user information for the @Username value passed in:

This query is poorly written and easily injectable:

Let’s pretend we’re a nefarious hacker and want to determine what SQL Server logins are available to us on the server.  We can use a UNION-based injection attack to query sys.syslogins to get this information and return it as part of the original query:

This union based attack simply concatenates the results of another query to our original row of data.

Error-Based Attacks

Let’s say the UNION-based technique doesn’t work or we want an alternate way of determining the currently logged in account.

Another option is to have the application reveal information about the database through error output.

We can pass in a query that we know will produce an error, in this case casting a string as an INT:

Voila! If the application doesn’t handle the error message correctly, it will conveniently show the system login as part of the error message.

Out-Of-Band Delivery

The first two techniques we looked at have been in-boundattacks: that is, we used the injectable query to return data to us directly.

But what if there is sufficient security preventing unexpected data from being directly returned to our app?  We have to get the data we want off of the server via other means.

This example uses xp_cmdshell to write our data to a text file, but we could have just as easily used this to send ourselves an email, etc…

Blind Injection

A secured server may not allow us to directly output the data we want, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infer certain information.

Normally we pride ourselves in being able to write consistently fast queries. But our dedication to consistently fast executions provides hackers with ways of discerning information without any explicit data output.

For example, let’s say we want to guess if the currently logged in account is “sa”.  We can write logic to check this and purposely slow the injectable query’s execution to determine we our guess is correct:

If our query with an expected parameter normally returns in milliseconds, forcing a 5-second delay will indirectly inform us that our guessed “sa” account name is correct.

Protecting Yourself

The easiest way to prevent SQL injection is to avoid using dynamic SQL when it’s unnecessary. In our example stored procedure above, there is no reason we should be using dynamic SQL –  this should be a parameterized query that is completely safe from injection attacks:

If you must use dynamic SQL, then execute your programmatically built query string with sp_executesql. This procedure will safely parameterize your inputs and prevent from injection from occurring.

Finally, make sure the accounts executing your queries have as few allowed permissions as possible.  This way, even if your query has an injection vulnerability, the amount of damage an attacker can do is minimal.  Many of the examples above would have failed if our account simply didn’t have access to certain system tables or system procedures like xp_cmdshell.

These solutions will not cover every scenario, but they will cover the majority of scenarios and improve our chances of keeping our information secure.

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2.5 Ways Your ORM Is Vulnerable To SQL Injection

Published on: 2018-03-06

Someone recently told me that they don’t need to worry about SQL injection because they are using an ORM.

Oh boy.

ORMs don’t automatically prevent SQL injection

Object-relational mapping (ORM) tools allow developers to easily access an application’s data layer without having to write lots of redundant code.

 

Most ORMs will safely parameterize certain types of queries.  The following examples use Entity Framework and SQL Server, but these examples should apply to most other major ORMs and RDBMSs).

Our LINQ query making it easy to access our data layer:

A beautiful, clean, LINQ query

And then the SQL query that our ORM generated.

A query structure that only a mother could love

You’ll notice the generated SQL query is using sp_executesql that has parameterized our input variable value “TFly37”.  In this instance we can say the ORM did a good job following best practices in preventing a successful SQL injection attack.

But while ORMs may prevent some SQL injection attempts, there is no guarantee that they will prevent all injection attempts.

 

What follows are examples of when ORMs can allow for successful injection attacks.

Programatically assembled SQL

ORMs often provide the ability for developers to map the results of adhoc SQL queries to models.  Adhoc queries mean potential injection vulnerabilities.

Consider the following:

Looks a lot like your typical SQL injection vulnerability doesn’t it?

Entity Framework, or any ORM for that matter, won’t be able to recognize a parameter concatenated directly into the query string.

Now hopefully the developer has some really strong input validation  on the “username” parameter, but the fact still stands: this query is injectable and the ORM will happily execute it.

Stored Procedures

Does the logic needed in your app already exist as a stored procedure?

Excellent!  Let’s be DRY (don’t-repeat-yourself) and call our procedure directly from our ORM:

Parameterized with the value AND datatype – give this developer a raise!

So in this example, the ORM and developer have done everything right.  So where’s the injection vulnerability?

Uh oh…

Now let me be clear: this injection vulnerability is not the ORM’s fault.

However, it is the developer’s fault if he is blindly using a procedure without knowing what it does.  It’s also the DBA’s fault if she provided an injectable procedure assuming the developer would sanitize any input values in the app.

Security is hard.  Everyone needs to work together and be responsible for doing everything within their means to secure their applications.

ORM injection

Technically this isn’t an example of SQL injection.

But that’s why the title of this post says “2.5” instead of “3”.

In this example I’m using a dynamic LINQ to access my data:

Hello concatenation my old friend

If we pass the value  \" OR 1 == 1 OR UserName==\" we will have the ORM convert it to the following query:

Game over

Injection takes many forms and doesn’t just come straight from SQL.  It’s important to follow best practices in all languages and tools to prevent security incidents.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself from SQL injection, be sure to  watch my online session at GroupBy at 9am Eastern on March 16th, 2018.

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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