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SQL Injection Attacks by Example

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Steve Friedl
June 07, 2006

Steve Friedl

Steve Friedls is a Southern California native who has spent the better part of his life working with computers: from writing proprietary-language compiler tools back in college, to security consulting and communications controllers today. He is  a fantastic problem solver and loves technical challenges.

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A customer asked that we check out his intranet site, which was used by the company's employees and customers. This was part of a larger security review, and though we'd not actually used SQL injection to penetrate a network before, we were pretty familiar with the general concepts. We were completely successful in this engagement, and wanted to recount the steps taken as an illustration.

"SQL Injection" is subset of the an unverified/unsanitized user input vulnerability ("buffer overflows" are a different subset), and the idea is to convince the application to run SQL code that was not intended. If the application is creating SQL strings naively on the fly and then running them, it's straightforward to create some real surprises.

We'll note that this was a somewhat winding road with more than one wrong turn, and others with more experience will certainly have different -- and better -- approaches. But the fact that we were successful does suggest that we were not entirely misguided.

There have been other papers on SQL injection, including some that are much more detailed, but this one shows the rationale of discovery as much as the process of exploitation.

Read on... 

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