SQL injections are among the most common cyber threats, accounting for about 65.1% of most web application attacks. The impact of their attacks on businesses is alarming — breach in data confidentiality and loss of critical organizational data that ruin organizational growth.
This article discusses how to protect your business from SQL injections and their effects.
Let’s get started.
What are SQL injections?
An SQL injection is a code injection technique that exploits security vulnerabilities in data systems. It uses interactive aspects such as contact forms, search bars, and web pages to attack data-driven applications. If the inputs are not scrutinized, hackers can exploit loopholes to inject malicious SQL commands, manipulating the database into performing an action different from what it was meant to do.
Essentially, hackers use the SQL code to exploit the system, enabling access to the company’s database.
For example, log-in information is submitted on a web page to enable an authorized user to explore a site. This type of web form is often programmed to accept only a specific type of data, such as an email address and password. If the passwords are correct, the user can access the platform.
However, hackers can exploit the weaknesses of this entry to input boxes on the platform and enter their requests into the system, allowing them to attack the database and steal the company’s sensitive data.
16 ways to safeguard your business against SQL injections
There are different ways to avoid SQL injections. Let’s examine them below:
- Hire an experienced security personnel
An expert security officer can identify vulnerabilities in the database and fix them immediately. Therefore, rather than operating your security system based on a hypothesis, hire experienced security personnel. They scrutinize inputs and ensure they are parameterized statements to keep the system safe.
Additionally, an experienced security officer knows the proper damage control to adopt when your security is compromised. They know what to do when a data breach occurs and when there’s unauthorized access to mitigate the risks involved.
Therefore, hire security experts to monitor your data security practices, identify vulnerabilities and control data insecurity intrusion.
- Adopt third-party authentication tools
Preventing SQL injection attacks requires third-party authentication to reduce unauthorized access to the company’s database. They automate the authorization stages so you can focus on interacting with users without doubting their identification.
Also, third-party authentication software reduces password complications. Authentication tools simplify password input for users, enabling fast interaction on site. Users can sign in automatically using existing details on the site, making their experience easier.
Also, since users’ credentials already exist on the site, your database would be less exposed to vulnerabilities during password input, reducing SQL injections.
- Validate user inputs
Conduct input validation by identifying critical SQL statements and creating a whitelist for valid SQL statements. Afterwards, eliminate invalid data input.
Additionally, structure your input so that it only accepts specific characters. For example, when requesting your customers’ phone numbers, ensure that they can input only numbers. Passwords should also be restricted to particular numbers and alphabets. By doing this, you can scrutinize inputs and limit SQL injections.
- Limit special characters
Hackers often use unique characters for SQL injections. Therefore restrict special characters by configuring users’ inputs to a function like MySQL. This will guarantee that risky characters like a single quote don’t appear in a SQL query as instructions.
- Manage patches and updates
Conduct regular audits to identify vulnerabilities in the databases. Staying up-to-date will help you discover loopholes hackers can exploit early.
Consequently, you can fix these gaps and prevent the businesses from impending SQL injection threats. So, perform regular checks on your web server, plug-ins, frameworks, etc. This way, you’ll be updated about vulnerabilities early to prevent SQL injection attacks.
- Improve virtual and physical firewalls
Adopt a web-application firewall (WAF) to prevent intrusion and breaches. They are designed to protect web applications from attacks. They track the traffic that passes through the web servers and discover suspicious activities that may put the system in danger.
WAF works based on configured web security practices. The customized rules guide WAF, directing it on the loopholes to look out for and suspicious traffic behavior it must identify. The configured settings help it track applications and notify the IT security team about malicious attacks.
As a result, WAF serves as an adequate protection strategy against SQL injections because it discovers suspicious activities and reports them.
- Reduce potential entry points for hackers
A proactive step to preventing SQL injections is to reduce the data system attack surface— the number of entry points for hackers. This involves keeping the entry points as minimal as possible, eliminating database activities you don’t need.
For example, xp_cmdshell is an extended process in the Microsoft SQL server that can produce a window command shell and transfer a string for execution. Since the Windows procedures created by an xp_cmdshell contain the same security advantages as the SQL server account, the hacker can introduce it into your database and cause severe damage.
- Enforce the best account and password policies
Another way to tighten your company’s data security is to adopt practical account and password practices. Change built-in passwords before you start using an application, replace passwords regularly, and use appropriate password characters and length.
Additionally, create separate passwords for different accounts and enable third-party authentication.
- Encode the company’s data
Encryption keeps confidential files classified. Without adequate encryption, the company’s sensitive information is exposed, giving attackers easy access to the data they want to steal or alter. So, use tools to encrypt business data that only authorized users can access.
- Avoid shared databases
Promoting a shared database for different websites or applications can put your business at risk of SQL injections. This also applies to users with shared databases for various web applications.
Although shared accounts enable a flexible management system, they also put the organization’s data security at risk. Shared accounts create linked servers, giving them minimal access to the target server with the information hackers seek.
So, avoid shared databases. Create separate log-ins for accounts whenever possible. This way, attackers won’t be able to exploit the company’s log-in through shared accounts.
- Don’t include too much information in error messages
Ensure you don’t divulge too many details to indicate a user has given an incorrect instruction or an error resulting from the software. Attackers can read between the lines, so they can identify vulnerabilities and attack your database from there if you give out too much information during an error message.
- Monitor SQL statements continuously
Track all SQL statements of database-related applications for software. This includes recording processes, accounts, and statements. When you have insight into how SQL statements work, you can quickly discover malicious SQL statements and other vulnerabilities. This will allow you to eliminate suspicious and dormant accounts, create statements, and store processes efficiently to protect your database.
- Conduct a regular penetration test
A penetration test, also known as a pen test, evaluates a network’s security for improvement. The continual assessment and upgrade of system securities prevent exploitation from hackers, safeguarding your database.
However, this evaluation is different from a vulnerability assessment. Penetration tests involve attacking a system like a hacker would assess weak entry points. It also gives you insights into how your system’s defense will respond during an attack.
During pen tests, you will discover different elements that can enable easy penetration from hackers, including weak passwords, outdated software, injections, etc.
- Harden your OS, servers, and applications
Hardening your system protects your server and workstation by minimizing its attack surface. It closes systems vulnerabilities that hackers can harness to attack a company’s system. To do this, eliminate non-essential services, permission, ports, user accounts, etc. This will give the cyberattacker fewer loopholes to penetrate.
To harden your OS (Operating System), eliminate unnecessary drivers, authenticate system access to permissions, and enable encryption.
Hardening your server involves protecting your data, ports, and permissions. Harden the server by keeping the OS updated. Use complex passwords, implement multi-factor authentication, and use antivirus and firewall protection.
Lastly, harden your application by patching standard and third-party applications. Use firewalls, antivirus, malware, and software-based data encryption.
- Avoid administrative privileges
Linking your applications to a database with an account with root access is risky as hackers can gain entry into the entire system. So, avoid connecting your systems to accounts with root access. Instead, enforce the least privileges on the system to protect your software against SQL injections. Every application should have its database information. Also, determine the permissions the applications need.
Additionally, limit access by ensuring that the parts of an application available to a user are what they need. This way, you can restrict access to other system parts, limiting vulnerabilities.
- Adopt character escaping functions
Use character escaping functions for inputs users supply and given by every database management system (DBMS). This ensures that the database management system does not mistake it with the SQL statement the product manager or developer supplies. By doing this, you can safeguard the database from unauthorized users.
SQL injections are a threat to a company’s data security and growth. For this reason, every business should take adequate security measures to protect its system from SQL injections. This article discusses 16 practices every organization must adopt to effectively safeguard their data networks from SQL injections.
Lydia Iseh is a writer with years of experience in writing SEO content that provides value to the reader. As someone who believes in the power of SEO to transform businesses, she enjoys being part of the process that helps websites rank high on search engines.