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SQL injection/Countermeasures

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SQL injection > Countermeasures

Obstacles can occur on various layers of the OSI model. The software layer may filter the input during its processing. The network layer may be monitored by a NIDS or IPS and begin to drop traffic, add captcha verifications, or redirect to a honeypot. The HTTP server may also be running a Web Application Firewall. A researcher or penetration tester may find overcoming these obstacles difficult, but usually not impossible given enough dedication.

Configuration & environment challenges

Due to certain vulnerabilities requiring the use of boolean enumeration or timing attacks, many HTTP requests may be needed in order to successfully determine database contents, making the process of arbitrarily accessing data quite time consuming and noisy. Different databasing engines have different configuration settings, but usually include some form of maximum number of connections, maximum query size, maximum results size, maximum number of connections per user or client, and other resource restrictive options. Simply distributing a time consuming attack may only hinder the attacker by exhausting resources.

Database permissions and role-based-access control integration for the application may also play a large role in the amount of data an attacker may gather, as SQL injection only exploits in the context of the active connection to the SQL server that the vulnerable query executes within (ie. the username and password that the application is using for the query being exploited). Programming languages have different configurations for runtime as well, such as memory limits and maximum execution time when configured to run in conjunction with a webserver. Older versions of database servers may not have an information_schema database and may require a privileged user (like the database server administrator) to access any schema information.

IDS, IPS, and web application firewalls

Web application firewalls usually operate at the same layer as the HTTP server or web applications, and thus monitor the protocol and input layers. This is different than normal IDS, which are stand-alone pieces of software or hardware that inspect the network and the host layer. Most intrusion detection mechanisms built for web applications operate using signature-based detection. Therefore, as long as an attack does not match a signature, it will slip by most of them.

Common web application firewall HTTPD modules

  • Mod_Security (Apache)
  • Naxsi (Nginx)
  • ISAPI Filters (Microsoft IIS)

Common signatures use regular expressions that will match (and block) many common or simple testing techniques.

Improper sanitizing

Any time improper sanitizing takes place there is a potential for partial sanitizing, and may make the exploitation process highly difficult if not impossible.

Partial sanitizing

Partial sanitizing may affect any or more (unlisted here) of the following important syntax characters and result in them being encoded in some fashion, escaped, or removed entirely. In many circumstances, it is possible to craft injection queries without syntax characters, resulting in filter bypass and sometimes IDS evasion.

  • The space character (or all whitespace)
Jump to sql injection without whitespace
  • The single quote and double quote characters: ', "
Jump to sql injection without quotes
  • The tag or "equals" comparative operators: <, >, and =
Jump to sql injection without tags
  • The comma character: ,
Jump to sql injection without commas
  • The parenthesis characters: ( and )

Deprecated sanitizing

PHP's addslashes() function (now deprecated) relied on the unhex() function. The goal of addslashes() was to add an escape (\) behind any single quotes (') entered into a string. When multi-byte character sets (or collations) are in use, this can cause a vulnerability to occur. If a valid multi-byte character ends in 0x5c (the escape), it is possible to circumvent the escape completely by placing the first byte of that character before the single quote. When unhex() is called against the now escaped single-quote, it sees the two bytes as a single character, allowing the quote (0x27) to escape the string unscathed. An example prefix for a non-utf8 character set's multi-byte prefix that accepts 0x5c as an ending is 0xbf, so one could use %bf%27 in a url to bypass the use of addslashes().