SQL injection attacks on the rise, says SecureWorks

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Criminals are increasingly using structured query language (SQL) code to obtain the personal information of consumers through databases, internet monitoring vendor SecureWorks warned this week.

In the first three months of this year, SecureWorks blocked 100 to 200 SQL injection attacks per day, CTO Jon Ramsey said in a release issued on Tuesday. That number increased to 8,000 per day since April.

The attacks are especially worrisome, according to SecureWorks, because they are targeted attacks – most of which originate overseas – where the hacker adds SQL code to a web form imput box to gain access to databases.

Allen Wilson, vice president of research for SecureWorks, said Thursday that SQL injection attacks are becoming more popular because they're successful and easy to orchestrate.

"I think, quite simply, that these attacks are proving to be quite successful out on the internet. It's one of these things where someone sees that something works and people gravitate to it. There's an increasing market for identity information stored in databases," he said. "You can do it with an ordinary web browser. It's no assembly required."

Wilson added that SQL injection attacks target poor development practices by any company or organization that has a site with fields for usernames, passwords or other identifiable information.

One of the more prominent alleged attacks using SQL injection occurred earlier this year when the University of Southern California's student application system was hacked.

The breach compromised more than 270,000 records after a hacker exploited a flaw in the admissions department's SQL database to bypass authentication. The hacker staged a SQL injection from a Gmail account and accessed and copied several applicant records.

SecureWorks reccomended organizations take the following precautions to avoid SQL injection attacks:

  • Validate all textbox entries using validation controls, regular expressions and code;
  • Use parameterized SQL or stored procedures;
  • Use a limited access account to connect the database;
  • Encrypt or hash passwords and other sensitive data as well as connection strings;
  • Don't reveal too much information in error messages.
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