Web Programming: A Hacker’s Dream?

So I recently came to realize that a web application I had developed had a security hole as someone had hacked the page with a SQL injection attack. I was thinking that it was the underlying CMS (Content Management System) framework that provides the basis for the web application I built that was causing the problem, but on a whim decided to go back in and check my own code just to make sure. I realized that while it may not have been my code that was used to mount the attack, it was also quite possible that it had been. Basically I had unchecked inputs, so a url like this:


Could be turned into something like this:


which would simply delete all of the users from the database. Yikes!

As a seasoned programmer I should know better, so the only excuse I can think of is how long ago I wrote the code. I guess I had never done any security hardening to the application that I know I should have done. Fortunately, this lesson didn’t have terribly dire consequences, however it has made me wake up to the realities a bit.

Maybe it has already been done, but it seems to me that if someone with malicious intent and a basic knowledge of web crawling could write a simple script to just run amok on the Internet, crusing from site to site looking for vulnerabilities. Obviously companies and even individuals feel that they cannot be without a web site, however, building a site and having it accessible to the world should give us programmers pause. We need to do one of two things: a) write a killer EULA (End-User License Agreement) like Microsoft does that protects us from any culpability, which lowers a customer’s confidence in our work, or b) we need to write such rock-solid code as to ensure that these vulnerabilities are not as easily found and exploited. Maybe the real solution is somewhere in between the two. Anyhow, this experience has helped me get better focus. I hope it will encourage you to get focused as well.

Lazy coding practices is the stuff Hacker’s Dreams are made of.

For an in depth introduction to SQL Injection Attacks, read this article.

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