Feeds

New attack technique threatens databases

Lateral thinking about SQL injection

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

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." ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.