Times have changed and so are the methods and means of disrupting, stealing and crippling the society. Data has become much more valuable than ever before as the economy is governed by the enormous digital transactions carried out via several computer systems stored in data centers.
With the advent and flourishing use of the internet, it won’t be wrong to say that for any developed nation or even developing one’s data is the foremost consideration. Hence infrastructures and technology are required to handle and safely store the data most securely to avoid any loss or disruption.
As things have changed to a more digitally inclusive environment making business more dependent on data making it available online the chances of stealing and causing disruption have also increased. As computers, today are directly connected to the end-users via cloud access to make data and facilities available cyber attacks have also been on the rise.
There are today many numbers of applications and programs that are created and run to facilitate front end access to users and it is imperative to say that the chances of vulnerabilities in them have also risen.
Taking advantage of such vulnerabilities today a major threat is something called a Code Injection Cyber Attack method. Believe it or not but at present, this poses a serious threat to the business.
Let us, first of all, understand what exactly is a Code Injection Attack and the methods by which vulnerabilities are exploited.
What is a Code Injection Attack?
Code Injection Attack or most commonly also mentioned as Remote Code Execution allows the attacker to execute malicious code written by him via an injection attack. This occurs when an attacker is able to exploit an input validation flaw in a software or application and gives him the ability to introduce and execute malicious code. The malicious code is injected into the language of the application and via which it is executed by the server-side interpreter via a language that can be PHP, Python, Java, Pearl, Ruby to mention a few.
The term “Code Injection Attack” is a more generic term that is used to describe an exploit that can be used by an attacker because of a poorly written code allowing the attacker to execute their own code.
The capacity of an attacker depends on the limits of the server-side interpreter and sometimes it gives access enabling the attacker to even run command injections.
How do Code Injection Attacks work?
One of the fundamental reasons for vulnerabilities that give chances for code injection is improper coding and validation methods used in the programming language and that seems to be the case to all web application languages interpreted on the server.
Two major reasons why code injection vulnerabilities are as follows:
- Improper input validation &
- Dynamic evaluation of user input in an unprotected manner.
To elaborate on this, in most of the case’s application will have to accept data inputs from the user via the application interface that can be via Input fields like form fields or even file upload, cookies and also query string parameters. All these inputs are directly derived from the end-user. Now, what if these inputs are not validated and sanitized properly before sending it the actual input to the server?
Alarming, as this is one of the fundamental reasons that gives chances of vulnerabilities. Attackers can use this vulnerability to send or inject code via these inputs that help in reaching the server-side and manipulating it. This malicious code in the application languages can give full access to the server-side interpreter thereby allowing the attacker to execute any of his arbitrary code within its process of the server.
That’s not all what if the attacker gets access to the system call of the server then he can also run system commands on the server that enables a larger command injection attack on the server causing much more damage of greater magnitude.
How do we protect our applications from Code Injection?
It goes without saying that it is the responsibility of the developers to take all necessary safeguards while writing code to avoid code injection vulnerabilities. They have to follow basic security practices while coding in order to improve their web applications. Let’s check out some of the key factors to be addressed to keep the application secure from code injections.
Input validation :
One of the primary areas as a developer to be taken care of is the input validation as this is the door to attackers. Proper validation rules should be implemented while coding as it will keep a check on the data that is inputted by the user. Always have the correct semantics and set entry limitation with respect to the character or number accepted and the type of data input to be sure that input is not unwarranted. You can also prohibit the use of special symbols and characters wherever not required.
Vulnerable constructs executions:
It can be a good practice to avoid using eval() and similar function as execution constructs on the data inputted by the user. Always use respective syntaxes of the languages used for specific features to safely accept user arguments. This will ensure the following of up to date coding standards thereby lessening chances of creating vulnerabilities.
Check Code: It is always better to use code checking tools and programs that will help in scanning and finding out coding vulnerabilities. This will also help in dry running input validation processes ad also remove unsafe codes from the application.
All data inputs are untrusted:
Lastly, it is always a good practice to treat all data that is inputted as unsafe as ultimately it has to get stored in the server. A developer has to be aware of all the input places that are left open for user input as this is the area which gives access via the application to the server interpreter. Hence HTML forms, the input of data files, cookies, and all other methods need to be thoroughly checked and timely patches need to be implemented.
Cyberspace will always be susceptible to attacks as dependencies on the online world is ever increasing. Hence as application developers, it becomes all the more necessary to keep updated with the various possible vulnerabilities especially attacks as code injection and code execution. Follow the necessary guidelines to write clean and secure codes for the applications which have multiple input points as a source for server interpretations.