The get_faqs() function in the FAQ Builder AYS WordPress plugin before 1.3.6 did not use whitelist or validate the orderby parameter before using it in SQL statements passed to the get_results() DB calls, leading to SQL injection issues in the admin dashboard
The software constructs all or part of an SQL command using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended SQL command when it is sent to a downstream component.
Without sufficient removal or quoting of SQL syntax in user-controllable inputs, the generated SQL query can cause those inputs to be interpreted as SQL instead of ordinary user data. This can be used to alter query logic to bypass security checks, or to insert additional statements that modify the back-end database, possibly including execution of system commands.
SQL injection has become a common issue with database-driven web sites. The flaw is easily detected, and easily exploited, and as such, any site or software package with even a minimal user base is likely to be subject to an attempted attack of this kind. This flaw depends on the fact that SQL makes no real distinction between the control and data planes.
- Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.
- For example, consider using persistence layers such as Hibernate or Enterprise Java Beans, which can provide significant protection against SQL injection if used properly.
- If available, use structured mechanisms that automatically enforce the separation between data and code. These mechanisms may be able to provide the relevant quoting, encoding, and validation automatically, instead of relying on the developer to provide this capability at every point where output is generated.
- Process SQL queries using prepared statements, parameterized queries, or stored procedures. These features should accept parameters or variables and support strong typing. Do not dynamically construct and execute query strings within these features using “exec” or similar functionality, since this may re-introduce the possibility of SQL injection. [REF-867]
- Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [REF-76]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.
- Specifically, follow the principle of least privilege when creating user accounts to a SQL database. The database users should only have the minimum privileges necessary to use their account. If the requirements of the system indicate that a user can read and modify their own data, then limit their privileges so they cannot read/write others' data. Use the strictest permissions possible on all database objects, such as execute-only for stored procedures.
- While it is risky to use dynamically-generated query strings, code, or commands that mix control and data together, sometimes it may be unavoidable. Properly quote arguments and escape any special characters within those arguments. The most conservative approach is to escape or filter all characters that do not pass an extremely strict allowlist (such as everything that is not alphanumeric or white space). If some special characters are still needed, such as white space, wrap each argument in quotes after the escaping/filtering step. Be careful of argument injection (CWE-88).
- Instead of building a new implementation, such features may be available in the database or programming language. For example, the Oracle DBMS_ASSERT package can check or enforce that parameters have certain properties that make them less vulnerable to SQL injection. For MySQL, the mysql_real_escape_string() API function is available in both C and PHP.
- Assume all input is malicious. Use an “accept known good” input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.
- When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, “boat” may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as “red” or “blue.”
- Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code’s environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.
- When constructing SQL query strings, use stringent allowlists that limit the character set based on the expected value of the parameter in the request. This will indirectly limit the scope of an attack, but this technique is less important than proper output encoding and escaping.
- Note that proper output encoding, escaping, and quoting is the most effective solution for preventing SQL injection, although input validation may provide some defense-in-depth. This is because it effectively limits what will appear in output. Input validation will not always prevent SQL injection, especially if you are required to support free-form text fields that could contain arbitrary characters. For example, the name “O’Reilly” would likely pass the validation step, since it is a common last name in the English language. However, it cannot be directly inserted into the database because it contains the “'” apostrophe character, which would need to be escaped or otherwise handled. In this case, stripping the apostrophe might reduce the risk of SQL injection, but it would produce incorrect behavior because the wrong name would be recorded.
- When feasible, it may be safest to disallow meta-characters entirely, instead of escaping them. This will provide some defense in depth. After the data is entered into the database, later processes may neglect to escape meta-characters before use, and you may not have control over those processes.
- Ensure that error messages only contain minimal details that are useful to the intended audience and no one else. The messages need to strike the balance between being too cryptic (which can confuse users) or being too detailed (which may reveal more than intended). The messages should not reveal the methods that were used to determine the error. Attackers can use detailed information to refine or optimize their original attack, thereby increasing their chances of success.
- If errors must be captured in some detail, record them in log messages, but consider what could occur if the log messages can be viewed by attackers. Highly sensitive information such as passwords should never be saved to log files.
- Avoid inconsistent messaging that might accidentally tip off an attacker about internal state, such as whether a user account exists or not.
- In the context of SQL Injection, error messages revealing the structure of a SQL query can help attackers tailor successful attack strings.