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This page concerns an attack called an SQL Injection

An SQL injection attack consists of insertion or "injection" of an SQL query via the input data from the client to the application.


1. Leverage frameworks

  • Paramaterized queries
  • "Point and Click" query generation

2. Input validation

  • Always ensure that you receive what you expect
  • White list the validation (vs. black list)
  • Validate type, length, format, and range
  • Escape special characters
  • Always validate on the server side - DON'T have the client perform validation

3. ACLs

  • Execute queries with least privilege

Parameterized Queries and Stored Procs

There are two complementary and successful methods of mitigating SQL Injection attacks:

  • Parameterized queries using bound, typed parameters
  • Careful use of parameterized stored procedures.

Parameterized queries are the easiest to adopt, and work in fairly similar ways among the three major technologies in use today:

  • PHP
  • J2EE
  • .NET

Parameterized Stored Procedures

The use of parameterized stored procedures is an effective mechanism to avoid most forms of SQL Injection. In combination with parameterized bound queries, it is very unlikely that SQL injection will occur within your application. However, there are a number of caveats to bear in mind:

  • Use of dynamic code execution features will allow SQL Injection:

create proc VulnerableDynamicSQL(@userName nvarchar(25)) as

 declare @sql nvarchar(255)
 set @sql = 'select * from users where UserName =  
   + @userName + '
 exec sp_executesql @sql


The above example still allows SQL Injection as it allows dynamic injection of arbitrary string data. This gotchya is also true of Java / PL/SQL and MySQL's stored procedure support.

Least privilege connections

Always use accounts with the minimum privilege necessary for the application at hand, never “sa”, “dba”, “admin”, or the equivalent.

WARNING: Escaping table names

No SQL Injection mitigation or escaping allows the safe escaping of table names. This seems to be a common issue with PHP forum software.

$tablename = mysql_real_escape_string($tablename)

is simply not safe and cannot be made so. In general:

  • Avoid using dynamic table names if at all possible.
  • If you have to use dynamic table names, do not accept them from the user if at all possible.
  • If you have to allow dynamic user choice of table names, ONLY use whitelists of acceptable characters for table names and enforce table name length limits. In particular, many database systems have a wide range of unacceptable characters and these change between major releases.

How to Locate potentially vulnerable code

A secure way to build SQL statements is to construct all queries with PreparedStatement instead of Statement and/or to use parameterized stored procedures. Parameterized stored procedures are compiled before user input is added, making it impossible for a hacker to modify the actual SQL statement.

The account used to make the database connection must have “Least privilege” If the application only requires read access then the account must be given read access only.

Avoid disclosing error information: Weak error handling is a great way for an attacker to profile SQL injection attacks. Uncaught SQL errors normally give too much information to the user and contain things like table names and procedure names.

Best practices when dealing with DB’s

Use Database stored procedures, but even stored procedures can be vulnerable. Use parametrized queries instead of dynamic SQL statements. Data validate all external input: Ensure that all SQL statements recognize user inputs as variables, and that statements are precompiled before the actual inputs are substituted for the variables in Java.

SQL Injection Example:

String DRIVER = "com.ora.jdbc.Driver";

String DataURL = "jdbc:db://localhost:5112/users";

String LOGIN = "admin";

String PASSWORD = "admin123";


//Make connection to DB
Connection connection = DriverManager.getConnection(DataURL, LOGIN, PASSWORD);

String Username = request.getParameter("USER"); // From HTTP request

String Password = request.getParameter("PASSWORD"); // From HTTP request

int iUserID = -1;

String sLoggedUser = "";

String sel = "SELECT User_id, Username FROM USERS WHERE Username = '" +Username + "' AND Password = '" + Password + "'";

Statement selectStatement = connection.createStatement ();
ResultSet resultSet = selectStatement.executeQuery(sel);

if ( {

       iUserID = resultSet.getInt(1);
       sLoggedUser = resultSet.getString(2);

PrintWriter writer = response.getWriter ();

if (iUserID >= 0) {
       writer.println ("User logged in: " + sLoggedUser);
} else {

       writer.println ("Access Denied!")

When SQL statements are dynamically created as software executes, there is an opportunity for a security breach as the input data can truncate or malform or even expand the original SQL query!

Firstly the request.getParameter retrieves the data for the SQL query directly from the HTTP request without any Data validation (Min/Max length, Permitted characters, malicious characters). This error gives rise to the ability to input SQL as the payload and alter the functionality in the statement.

The application places the payload directly into the statement causing the SQL vulnerability:

String sel = "SELECT User_id, Username FROM USERS WHERE Username = '" Username + "' AND Password = '" + Password + "'";


Parameter collections such as SqlParameterCollection provide type checking and length validation. If you use a parameters collection, input is treated as a literal value, and SQL Server does not treat it as executable code and therefore the payload can not be injected. Using a parameters collection lets you enforce type and length checks. Values outside of the range trigger an exception. Make sure you handle the exception correctly. Example of the SqlParameterCollection:

using System.Data;

using System.Data.SqlClient;

using (SqlConnection conn = new SqlConnection(connectionString))
  DataSet dataObj = new DataSet();

  SqlDataAdapter sqlAdapter = new SqlDataAdapter( "StoredProc", conn);

  sqlAdapter.SelectCommand.CommandType = CommandType.StoredProcedure;

 //specify param type

  sqlAdapter.SelectCommand.Parameters.Add("@usrId", SqlDbType.VarChar, 15); 

  sqlAdapter.SelectCommand.Parameters["@usrId "].Value = UID.Text; // Add data from user

  sqlAdapter.Fill(dataObj); // populate and execute proc


Stored procedures don’t always protect against SQL injection:

@parameter NVARCHAR(50)

        EXEC sp_executesql @parameter

The above procedure shall execute any SQL you pass to it. The directive sp_executesql is a system stored procedure in Microsoft® SQL Server™

Lets pass it.


Guess what happens? So we must be careful of not falling into the “We’re secure, we are using stored procedures” trap! Bold text


  1. MS SQL example
  2. Michael Sutton "Revisiting SQL Injection" presentation to Boulder OWASP Feb 2007.