Microsoft.co.uk succumbs to SQL injection attack

A hacker successfully defaced a Web page within Microsoft's U.K. domain on Thursday, but the problem has been fixed.

A hacker successfully attacked a Web page within Microsoft Corp.'s U.K. domain on Wednesday, resulting in the display of a photograph of a child waving the flag of Saudi Arabia.

It was "unfortunate" that the site was vulnerable, said Roger Halbheer, chief security advisor for Microsoft in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, on Friday.

The problem has since been fixed. However, the hack highlights how large software companies with technical expertise can still prove vulnerable to hackers.

The hacker, who posted his name as "rEmOtEr," exploited a programming mistake in the site by using a technique known as SQL (Structured Query Language) injection to get unauthorized access to a database, Halbheer said. The site took SQL queries of a particular form, embedded in URLs (uniform resource locators), and passed them to a database. By embedding a query with an unexpected form in the requested URL, the hacker prompted the server to return error messages, Halbheer said.

From those error messages, a hacker can get an idea of how the database is structured and refine a SQL query that the database will process as an instruction to insert, rather than retrieve, data. Eventually, the hacker found the right combination and inserted a link to an external Web site into the database.

That meant when the normal Web page was called into a browser, the database would download data from an external link. In this case, it was two photos and a graphic, a screen shot of which is available on Zone-H.org, which tracks hacked Web sites.

There are two ways to avoid this style of attack. First, the database should not be allowed to return error messages, Halbheer said. Secondly, the Web application should have validated the URL the hacker entered and rejected ones that should not be processed, he said.

If a programmer makes a mistake, "the bad guy can leverage it," Halbheer said.

SQL injection attacks are on the rise, overall, since valuable data is held within databases, said Paul Davie, founder and chief operating officer of Secerno, a security vendor that develops technology to protect databases from SQL attacks.

"I don't think Microsoft are unique in this respect and shouldn't be held up as particularly slipshod," Davie said. "This could have happened to practically anybody."

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?