SQL injection (SQLi) is one of the most common online threats. In fact, OWASP — a non-profit dedicated to improving the security of software — lists all types of injections in the first place, i.e., SQL injection (SQLi) is the top application security risk. This brings us to the question: how to defend against it?
Penetration testing — or “pentesting” in short — is the process of simulating attacks on software for finding its weaknesses. It helps to find vulnerabilities before they’re found and used by cybercriminals. In the old computer days, it was a hard and lengthy process, but it’s a lot easier now, thanks to tools.
Pentesting tools — aka penetration testing tools — help automate and speed up the process of simulating attacks and finding vulnerabilities in software. They help ethical hackers to pentest software in a better and efficient style. That said, let’s check the best pentesting tools to test for SQL injection. But first and foremost, let’s go through a quick background of SQL injection. Read on.
What is SQL Injection (SQLi)?
SQL injection is a code injection technique that’s used to attack a database. Since a database is behind every software, if it’s breached, the software is breached. It’s crucial since SQLi can be used to bypass app security measures, say a login form to allow privileged members to update a bank account holder’s data.
SQL injection mostly occurs when you ask the user for input, and he enters a SQL statement that you unknowingly run on your database. For example, if you ask the user for its id, and he enters “1051 OR 1=1”, it’s an injection attack.
Let’s see it in action. Let’s say your software uses this query to confirm a user’s identity: “SELECT * FROM User_Data WHERE User_ID = Input_Here”. Then, if he enters “1051 OR 1=1”, the query becomes “SELECT * FROM User_Data WHERE User_ID = 1051 OR 1=1”. Since “1=1” is always true, and it’s joined by OR, the query is going to be true. Thus, the user gets identified as valid, even if he’s not!
What’s the solution? The preferred solution is to validate all inputs and switch to parameterized queries and prepared statements. However, you may miss one of these techniques by mistake in your software, right? This is known as a bug or vulnerability, which must be found and patched for avoiding an attack.
But, how one can find the vulnerabilities? That’s where pentesting tools come handy; they help you find bugs in your software so that you can fix them. And the only method to prevent a cyberattack is by fixing or patching the bugs or loopholes in your software. That said, let’s see the best pentesting tools.
Tools for Finding SQLi Vulnerabilities
1. OWASP ZAP
OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is one of the most popular free security tools. It’s free and open-source software that helps you find vulnerabilities in your web applications during the development and testing phases. It features numerous advanced features to meet the demands of experienced pentesters.
It’s built specifically for testing web applications (and not desktop software or mobile apps). Also, it works on all popular platforms (including Docker), thanks to its codebase written in Java. Its most interesting feature is that it’s extensible and flexible; you can use its free add-ons to meet special requirements.
That said, let’s see some of its features that help at detecting the bugs:
- Features an automated scan option for auto-launching tests on a given website and testing the site for all types of security vulnerabilities.
- Features headless mode for developing automation software.
- Features APIs for controlling almost all its features in its desktop.
w3af, which stands for “Web Application Attack and Audit Framework”, is a security testing framework built to assist you in securing your web applications. It’s another free and open-source vulnerability scanner that helps you at detecting and exploiting security vulnerabilities in the web apps. It boasts of its ability to detect 200+ vulnerabilities including click-jacking and SQL injection.
Let’s check its feature list, which is superb seeing it’s a free tool, as below:
- Supports automation using its own set of scripts (text files having its commands on each line, just like the Batch Scripts of Windows).
- Supports various types of logging — console, text files, and even email reports — to help your to-be automation tool know the results.
- Supports a fuzzing engine that can inject payloads into almost any part of HTTP requests; it’s also customizable from the settings page.
- Supports extending the tool by writing plugins (scripts in Python).
An open-source penetration testing tool, sqlmap automates the process of finding and exploiting SQLi bugs. It comes with a powerful detection engine, which offers supersonic features for an expert penetration tester. Also, it packs in a variety of switches from database fingerprinting and data over-fetching to accessing the low-level file system on the database’s operating system.
That’s just the start. Its list of features is huge, so let’s see the best ones:
- Supports the most popular databases including IBM DB2, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and SQLite.
- Supports all major injection techniques, namely, Classic SQLi including its subtypes (Error-based SQLi and Union-based SQLi), Blind SQLi including its subtypes (Boolean-based Blind SQLi and Time-based Blind SQLi), Out-of-band SQLi, and Stacked Queries based SQL injection.
- Supports recognizing password hash types and cracking them.
- Supports searching inside and dumping tables per your settings.
- Supports executing commands on the underlying operating system and receiving their standard outputs if the database is supported.
That’s all about the penetration testing tools for detecting and finding SQL injection (SQLi) vulnerabilities in your web applications. It’s suggested to start with OWASP ZAP since it can test websites and tell you about vulnerable links or pages. Then, you can use the other tools on those links or web pages to detect SQLi bugs. And finally, you must patch those vulnerabilities for safety.