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Malicious Code Injection: Not Just for SQL

October 22nd, 2006

More and more, developers are becoming aware of the threats posed by malicious code, and SQL injection in particular, and by leaving code vulnerable to such attacks. However, while SQL is the most popular type of code injection attack, there are several others that can be just as dangerous to your applications and your data, including LDAP injection and XPath injection. While these may not be as well-known to developers, they are already in the hands of hackers, and they should be of concern.

In addition, much of the common wisdom concerning remediation of malicious code injection attacks is inadequate or inaccurate. Following these flawed recommendations will not improve the security of your application, but will only leave you with a false sense of security until the next time your application is compromised and your data is stolen, erased, or tampered with. It is important for developers to acquaint themselves with all code injection types that exist as well as the proper ways to fix any vulnerabilities to malicious code.

The Basic Premise of All Code Injection Types

Many people mistakenly think that they are safe from malicious code injection attacks because they have firewalls or SSL encryption. However, while a firewall can protect you from network level attacks, and while SSL encryption can protect you from an outside user intercepting data between two points, neither of these options offers any real protection from code injection attacks. All code injection attacks work on the same principle: a hacker piggybacks malicious code onto good code through an input field in the application. Therefore, the protection instead has to come from the code within the application itself.

There are many motives that hackers using malicious code injection attacks may have. They may wish to access a website or database that was intended only for a certain set of users. They may also wish to access a database in order to steal such sensitive information as social security numbers and credit cards. Other hackers may wish to tamper with a database – lowering prices, for example, so they can steal items from an e-commerce site with ease. And once an attacker has gained access to a database by using malicious code, he may even be able to delete it completely, causing chaos for the business that has been attacked.

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