How one site dealt with SQL injection attack

SQL injection attacks claim a victim

The massive wave of SQL injection attacks that started striking Microsoft-based Web sites around the world more than a week ago claimed as one of its victims Autoweb, a UK-based advertising and marketing site.

The ongoing attack, which hit Autoweb on a late Friday, exploited a vulnerability in a single line of code in the Web application to pierce through to the company's Microsoft SQL database, inject 30 characters to overwrite content, defaced Web pages, and ultimately knocked the site offline. The attack left Web pages that would attempt to inject malicious code into browsers of Web visitors.

It is estimated that at least a half-million Web pages had been infected in a similar style since it was flagged by security experts April 24. How Autoweb had to fight to recover its site over the long weekend that followed shows how devastating SQL injection attacks can be.

CIO Richard McCombe said nothing like this ever happened before to its Web site, which is hosted by a provider in Leeds, England. "We were struggling at that point to get the site back up."

But Autoweb's IT staff, who worked through the weekend, soon realized that database tables storing content provided by car dealers about their vehicles had been overwritten with a 30-character script.

A look at log files showed the attacks, which continued to surge through the weekend, were originating from IP addresses in China. So Autoweb blocked them. "That gave us a window of opportunity," says McCombe.

About a day's worth of new Web content from car dealers had been corrupted in the SQL injection attacks, but Autoweb did a daily backup, so it turned to that for clean content, and began backing up each hour through the weekend.

McCombe reached out for advice to UK-based firm Secerno, which builds a database-security appliance.

Steve Moyle, chief technology officer at Oxford, England-based Secerno, informed Autoweb that the most likely point of attack was through Web pages. McCombe then contacted the Web software developer, a contractor that worked for Autoweb, on a Sunday. But the developer said the problem was simply "over his head," said McCombe. The contractor had no idea how to find and fix the Web page vulnerability that allowed the SQL injection attack code to execute successfully.

Secerno, an appliance vendor, couldn't help with Web application remediation since its expertise was in database protection, and its appliance couldn't be used in Autoweb's case since Autoweb had the Web application and the database on a single server.

But McCombe managed to find a Web development company to fix the Web application hole.

"It was a simple piece of code in the Web application," says McCombe. As Autoweb began to put the nightmare of the massive SQL injection attack behind it last week, it's apparent there's been an impact.

"We were at 25,000 visits a day, now we're at 20,000," says McCombe, saying the site's ranking in a Google search has dropped somewhat but it will do what it can to bring that back up.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?