SQL Injection Attacks: How to Protect Your Joomla Website?
May 17th, 2013
Category : Joomla
There is no doubt that Joomla is one of the most widely-used content management systems in the world. This CMS is known for its versatility, robustness and dynamism. From running high-end corporate websites to simple blogs, Joomla has been used for all purposes. The fact that Joomla runs on multiple platforms such as Linux and Windows further improves the scope of the CMS. One of the reasons why Joomla is so popular is its strong security. While it is inherently safe, the Joomla developers have always tried to improve the security features in every new version.
However, having said that it should also be clearly highlighted that everything in Joomla is not hunky-dory. Even after having the strictest security threads, there are several vulnerabilities that can hit the CMS from time to time. Usually the vulnerabilities are caused due to misconfigurations of the CMS, poorly configured hosts and weak passwords. There are several kinds of threats or vulnerabilities that one can encounter in Joomla. Some of them are –
- SQL Injection
- Vulnerabilities on access control
- Intentionally or unintentionally inserting invalid or incorrect input
- Attempts to session hijack IDs
- Ignored or incorrect PHP configuration settings
- Poor error handling
- Cross Site Scripting (XSS)
- CSRF or a one-click attack
Today, in this article we will focus on SQL Injection and how to protect your Joomla website from this threat. Here is no doubt that SQL lies at the heart of a Joomla website. The database helps store content, user IDs, settings and much more. Since it contains so much of valuable information, entering this database can be hacker’s dream. The user information (such as usernames and passwords) that can be gathered from an SQL database has immense worth in the hackers’ world. An SQL injection (a malicious attempt by a hacker to enter the database) can happen in several ways. When a malformed question is requested in the form of a ‘query’, this can be termed as an SQL injection. When such a thing occurs the database, unsuspecting of the malicious intent, tries to process the query. Thus it is very important to understand that an SQL database in Joomla should be safely guarded and protected.
The hackers can break into the SQL database mainly due to two reasons – either there was a coding error on the part of the developer or the same code (which could be erroneous) has been used in more than one application thus spreading the error. Another mistake that developers make while coding is not inserting enough validation of input. When inputs are not validated properly, a developer leaves the site vulnerable to insertion of harmful queries that cannot be rightfully validated.
Preventing SQL Injection in a Joomla Site
SQL injections can bring irreparable damage to a website and it should be upon the developer to prevent these malicious attempts. Listed below are a few methods of preventing SQL injection in a Joomla site.
- Validating User Input – One of the essentials of SQL database security is to always validate the type, format, length and range of a user input. Right from the beginning, the developer should always be weary of malicious attempts.
- Have Strict Instructions for all User Inputs – Just because there is an image uploading box, a developer should not assume that it will only be used for uploading images. It could be used maliciously by breaking in codes. A way of securing at least an image box type is to limit the file types that can be uploaded onto the database.
- Restrict the Size of Images That Can Be Uploaded – It can be a case of malicious attempt of SQL injection if an attempt is made to upload a 100 MB image file in the insert box where the username should go. To prevent such cases, limit the number of characters to the username insertion box to a bare minimum such as eight. Also try to avoid drop tables in text fields.
- Test String Variables – It is very important that the string variables are always tested and only the expected values are allowed. Developers should always reject entries that might contain binary data, comment characters and escape sequences. These above mentioned techniques are commonly used by hackers to enter the SQL database and thus should be secured.
- Secure Administrative Rights – Only a few people should have access to the database of a website. It is not a good idea to have different layers of admins for the database such as admins, superadmins or database owners.
- Restrict Privileges to the Site – It is true that a website must be made interactive and dynamic. But in order to do so, the security of the website should not be jeopardized. Every user, that can include even the developer, should have minimum privileges within the site. The more the user privilege, the more the threat.
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