The Importance of SQL Injection Testing

Mar 27, 2023 | Test Automation Insights

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Allowing for user input is one of the best ways to make a piece of software or website interface interactive. However, this can be a double-edged sword.

User input gives you access to valuable data that you can use to better develop your digital product according to your users’ requests. At the same time, any location where users can interact with your software or website is a possible avenue for attacks through malicious code injection.

SQL injections are some of the most common and damaging types of attacks that your app or website can suffer. In this article, we’ll explain what SQL injection testing software is, how it works, and how you can reduce the likelihood of this type of cyber threat.

What Is SQL Injection Testing?

SQL injection testing is a cybersecurity measure in which you check your software or website for vulnerabilities that may allow a malicious party to execute an attack through SQL queries. The goal is to ensure that your product is capable of validating user input before responding to SQL queries that run directly on your internal database.

This is done by sending user-controlled SQL queries into the database and checking how it reacts. But SQL injection testing your website or software isn’t a one-time activity. It’s a continuous process that you should incorporate into your software or website’s development life cycle.

By integrating injection testing into your cybersecurity and business operations, you’ll be able to better protect your databases from malicious attacks which could lead to catastrophic results.

In-Band and Out-of-Band SQL Query

Depending on the communication channels used in contacting the database, the submitted queries are divided into two categories:

  • In-Band SQL Queries: Also known as blind SQL injections, in-band SQL queries are statements that are executed through the same channel as the software but separate from the database. This approach takes longer to execute than out-of-band queries because the query has to travel to the database and then the answer has to travel from the database to the app. 
  • Out-of-Band SQL Queries: These queries are processed outside of the software’s communication channel with the database. When the user performs a query, it is sent directly to the database servers to be processed and the results are sent back through a different channel. 

Though in-band SQL queries are typically easier to implement for developers, they tend to be more susceptible to SQL injection attacks. Out-of-band SQL queries, on the other hand, are faster and more secure, but they require the database server to have an external network connection available at all times.

Inferential Query

Inferential queries are another type of database communications that can be exploited. Attackers can launch an inferential attack by taking advantage of the application’s response to their SQL query. With the right statements, malicious users are able to trigger database behaviors that may cause it to lag or crash.

However, unlike traditional SQL injection attacks, during an inferential attack, the attacker doesn’t need to insert new data. They only need to respond to the original query on the database’s structure. This makes inferential attacks particularly challenging to detect, as they don’t leave behind traces of their unauthorized access to the database.

Common Objectives for Injection Testing

SQL injection testing tools are a critical component when developing a secure website or software. Their primary objective is to detect and identify a number of vulnerabilities that can be exploited through the user interface.

There are a number of objectives that you can achieve by regularly conducting injection testing, including:  

  • Identifying exploitable vulnerabilities: Testing ensures you’re able to remedy vulnerabilities before any third party has the chance to exploit them
  • Clearing out false positives: Injection testing allows you to better understand and weed out false positives, such as an average user receiving an error message
  • Addressing unique weaknesses: Conducting thorough and regular testing enables you to find and clear out vulnerabilities unique to your site or software even if they aren’t common
  • Preventing introduced vulnerabilities: Adding features or improvements to your software risks introducing new vulnerabilities that you need to fix before the release

Why Is It Important?

SQL injection attacks are incredibly damaging and could completely paralyze your app or site. That’s why prevention is as essential as having a response plan. Injection testing should be a part of your overall security strategy and shouldn’t collide with other tests or security approaches.

Conducting regular injection tests before the roll-out of any new feature or update, especially new features that could influence how the user interacts with the database, significantly lowers the risk of a successful SQL injection attack.

In addition to testing, it’s important to have a proactive response plan in place. This ensures you’re able to react adequately in the event of a successful SQL injection attack, allowing you to minimize the damages. The sooner you act, the less impact the damages have on your company’s system and reputation.

How Is This Type of Injection Attack Performed?

An SQL injection attack is one of the most common varieties of attacks that affect a website or application’s database. The attacker begins by identifying a vulnerability within the application code that they can exploit. This is usually done by sending in a query request through the standard user input and analyzing the response or error message they receive.

Once they identify a vulnerability, the attacker will attempt to insert an SQL statement into the user input fields or the site’s URL parameters. Those statements are carefully crafted queries that are capable of manipulating the target database. The goal is to either gain access to sensitive customer information or to render the system unusable by freezing the database and causing it to crash.

Another type of SQL injection attack is known as a Blind Injection. This is done when the attacker doesn’t receive any feedback from the database after sending their prepared statements for surveying. They instead utilize conditional statements, such as “ELSE” and “IF” to try and extract as much information as possible about the database’s structure and contents.

Risks of an SQL Injection Attack

Despite being rather simple and straightforward in nature, SQL injection attacks can still cause considerable damage and significantly impact your business’s operations and bottom line. Left unchecked, a single attack could leave a target on your back for other malicious actors to try and access your network.

Can Give Unauthorized Access to Sensitive Data

Arguably, one of the biggest risks of a successful SQL injection attack is that the attackers could gain unauthorized access to either a part or the entirety of your database. This includes the personal and private information of your company as well as all of your users.

This is particularly troublesome if you store users’ personal and financial information, such as social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers.

Can Cause Reputation Damage

Even if financial and personal damages were mostly averted via alerting users to the breach early on, this could cause irreversible damage to your company’s reputation.

Customers and investors alike may lose trust in your digital offering and opt for a competitor with higher security precautions in place. This could severely impact your bottom line, making it hard to recover. That’s why SQL injection protection should be prioritized the same as any other type of security precautions and procedures.

Can Possibly Leave You with Regulatory Fines

There are local and federal laws pertaining to the safeguarding and protection of users’ and employees’ personal and private information. The regulations are even more strict if you operate in certain industries, such as the financial or healthcare industries.

If you are the victim of an SQL injection attack, you could be subject to millions of dollars in fines depending on your industry, the amount of data that was compromised during the attack, and whether or not you’d taken the proper security measures beforehand.

Leaves Continuous Backdoors Into an Organization’s System

Left unchecked, the attacker could leave behind a backdoor to your organization’s system, facilitating future attacks. That’s why it’s important to regularly conduct security audits and vulnerability scans.

A backdoor entrance to your system can have a significant impact on your business’s security and can be difficult to stop and detect the longer it stays hidden.

Limit Your SQL Injection Vulnerability by Automating Your Testing Process

The best way to protect against SQL injections without compromising on user input and interactions is through SQL injection testing. Make it a part of your overall cybersecurity strategy. By running regular tests, you’ll be able to identify and fix vulnerabilities in your system before they’re exploited, limiting your exposure to injection attacks.

Luckily, SQL injection tests are some of the easiest to automate while still getting optimum and accurate results. At Ranorex, we provide leading test automation software and solutions.

Our flagship product, Ranorex Studio, is used by software quality assurance and software development teams in numerous industries to automate their routine testing. Automation reduces the rates of human error and neglect while also allowing your engineers and developers to focus on more pressing matters.

Get an instant demo of Ranorex Studio and start automating your software testing today!

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