Feeds

New attack technique threatens databases

Lateral thinking about SQL injection

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Database security expert David Litchfield has published details of a new type of database attack technique. Lateral SQL injection creates a means for hackers to access database data or inject hostile code onto vulnerable systems.

Exploitation is difficult and only possible in limited circumstances, Litchfield notes. Nonetheless, the discovery of the approach - a variant on earlier attack methods - means that database admins can no longer consider DATE or NUMBER data types safe from attack. Lateral SQL injection is a variant of SQL injection attacks, one of the most common methods for attacking database systems.

Litchfield first outlined the new approach during a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Washington in late February. He published details of the approach in a paper (pdf) last week.

SQL injection attacks involve attempts by hackers to trick database servers into running SQL commands, typically after crackers use vulnerabilities to inject character strings onto databases. Lateral SQL injections are a variant of the theme that use other forms of data - DATE and NUMBER data types - to much the same effect. The new attack relates to the Procedural Language/SQL programming language used by Oracle developers, and involves the possible development of exploits that involve hostile DATE or even NUMBER data types instead of user input, the fodder for conventional SQL injection attacks.

"In the past this has not been possible but as this paper will demonstrate, with a little bit of trickery, you can in the Oracle RDBMS [Relational database management system]," Litchfield explains, adding that the attack approach would probably only work in limited cases. "Whether this becomes 'exploitable' in the 'normal' sense, I doubt. But in very specific and limited scenarios there may be scope for abuse, for example in cursor snarfing attacks [pdf]," he adds.

A noted database security expert, Litchfield is perhaps best known for uncovering a bug in Microsoft SQL Server database server that was subsequently used by the SQL Slammer worm. Litchfield has long criticised Oracle for the time it takes to fix vulnerabilities in its database software.

The latest attack vector ought to spur developers into a more careful review of code, particularly where external developers have been used. "Even those functions and procedures that don’t take user input can be exploited if SYSDATE is used," Litchfield concludes. "The lesson here is always, always validate and don’t let this type of vulnerability get into your code. The second lesson is that no longer should DATE or NUMBER data types be considered as safe and not useful as injection vectors." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.