Published: 17/01/2022

SQL Injection Attack

SQL injection is an attack carried out on a website by which hackers insert SQL code directly into the application’s data entry fields using various hacking tools to access sensitive information or take control of the database.

How it works

The hacker can do this either by gaining physical access to the webserver or remotely over the internet if they’re able to identify system vulnerabilities. For example, improper filtering of specific characters can allow attackers to enter their own SQL statements through forms used for adding new entries or retrieving existing records. The entire contents will then be executed by the database management system without it realizing that anything has been altered.

Vulnerable areas on a web application include:

  • Login pages
  • Registration forms
  • Search bars
  • User information pages
  • Data entry forms

How to identify SQL injection attacks

It’s not always easy to identify an SQL injection attack. The website may appear to function normally, or it may generate errors. You might notice the URL of the page taking unusually long to load, especially if other users are experiencing delays too. Remember that even though SQL injections take place on a web application level, your site will be affected in some way so keep an eye out for anything unusual and conduct regular monitoring of its performance.

Avoiding SQL injection attacks

To safeguard against such attacks:

  • Always sanitize user data before passing it to database functions
  • Maintain a separate database for testing purposes
  • Assign different privileges to your application and test databases
  • Enable strong passwords on the webserver and database level
  • Use encryption when storing sensitive information such as credit card numbers in the database
  • Ensure all software and applications are updated regularly with the latest security patches
  • Ensure that database management systems, operating systems and webservers run behind firewalls and aren’t accessible from public networks
  • Consider using an intrusion detection system (IDS) to monitor access logs for suspicious activity
  • Protect your website by using a Web Application Firewall (WAF), either on the server itself or as part of the web application

Types of websites at risk for SQL injections

The websites at most risk of suffering an SQL injection attack are those that:

  • Use a commercial content management system such as Joomla, Drupal, WordPress etc.
  • Require user registration and use login forms
  • Allow anyone to add content through forms or search boxes on webpages
  • Deal with sensitive information such as credit card numbers or personal details like email addresses or phone numbers

Frequently asked questions about SQL injection attacks

Are SQL injection attacks a subset of XSS?

No. There are a number of other coding vulnerabilities which can lead to similar security breaches on websites but they’re not all related. However, this is considered one of the easier exploits for hackers to carry out and often works successfully on more websites than others due to its simplicity.

What is the difference between SQL injection and XSS?

Both can be used by hackers to gain access to sensitive information from databases or create backdoors through which they can return later on. However, XSS attacks allow them to directly control web pages whereas SQL injections are limited to operating within databases.

How can I tell if my company’s website has been attacked?

Since many SQL injection attacks take place without leaving any trace, it’s often difficult to know whether or not your website has been hacked in this manner. The best way to identify whether it’s at risk is to engage the services of penetration testers who have advanced knowledge in identifying these types of vulnerabilities and can provide guidance on how to secure them. If users are unable to register or use the public-facing features of your website, then that could be a sign that they’ve been interfered with.

How much time does it take to detect SQL injection attacks?

Once an attacker has established backdoor access through the exploitation of a website’s vulnerabilities, they can often return at any time in order to extract data or carry out further damage. This is why businesses should act quickly to remove these threats by updating their web applications and databases with the latest security patches and protocols. They need to be vigilant about monitoring performance for anything unusual which could represent evidence of hackers returning in the future.

Schedule Your Demo

Tired of your website being exploited by malicious malware and bots?

We can help

Subscribe and stay updated

Insightful articles, data-driven research, and more cyber security focussed content to your inbox every week.


By registering, you confirm that you agree to Netacea's privacy policy.