retrieving data with SQL Injection

Consider a shopping application that displays products in different categories. When the user clicks on the Gifts category, their browser requests the URL:

https://insecure-website.com/products?category=Gifts

This causes the application to make an SQL query to retrieve details of the relevant products from the database:

SELECT * FROM products WHERE category = 'Gifts' AND released = 1

This SQL query asks the database to return:

  • all details (*)
  • from the products table
  • where the category is Gifts
  • and released is 1.

The restriction released = 1 is being used to hide products that are not released. For unreleased products, presumably released = 0.

The application doesn't implement any defenses against SQL injection attacks, so an attacker can construct an attack like:

https://insecure-website.com/products?category=Gifts'--

This results in the SQL query:

SELECT * FROM products WHERE category = 'Gifts'--' AND released = 1

The key thing here is that the double-dash sequence -- is a comment indicator in SQL, and means that the rest of the query is interpreted as a comment. This effectively removes the remainder of the query, so it no longer includes AND released = 1. This means that all products are displayed, including unreleased products.

Going further, an attacker can cause the application to display all the products in any category, including categories that they don't know about:

https://insecure-website.com/products?category=Gifts'+OR+1=1--

This results in the SQL query:

SELECT * FROM products WHERE category = 'Gifts' OR 1=1--' AND released = 1

The modified query will return all items where either the category is Gifts, or 1 is equal to 1. Since 1=1 is always true, the query will return all items.

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