SQL Injection Activity

SQL Injection Activity

Detection overview

The "SQL Injection Activity" detection focuses on identifying attempts to exploit SQL injection vulnerabilities within an organization's applications. SQL injection is a code injection technique where attackers insert malicious SQL queries into input fields, aiming to execute unauthorized SQL commands on a database. Successful SQL injection attacks can lead to unauthorized data access, data manipulation, and potentially full control over the affected database.

Adversaries may attempt to take advantage of a weakness in an Internet-facing computer or program using software, data, or commands in order to cause unintended or unanticipated behavior. The weakness in the system can be a bug, a glitch, or a design vulnerability. These applications are often websites, but can include databases (like SQL), standard services (like SMB or SSH), network device administration and management protocols (like SNMP and Smart Install), and any other applications with Internet accessible open sockets, such as web servers and related services. Depending on the flaw being exploited this may include Exploitation for Defense Evasion.

If an application is hosted on cloud-based infrastructure, then exploiting it may lead to compromise of the underlying instance. This can allow an adversary a path to access the cloud APIs or to take advantage of weak identity and access management policies.

For websites and databases, the OWASP top 10 and CWE top 25 highlight the most common web-based vulnerabilities.

Detection Profile


  • An internal host sends requests to a Web server and embeds SQL fragments into HTTP Post data or the URL to gain access to the backend database; the requests appear machine generated due to the large volume and rate of arrival

Possible Root Causes

  • An infected system that is part of targeted attack is looking for vulnerabilities in an internal Web app through which to access the database integrated into it, or is harvesting information for later exfiltration
  • An IT-operated vulnerability scanner is scanning for Web app vulnerabilities
  • A software application on the host uses the unsafe practice of passing passes SQL statements in HTTP Post data or in a URL

Business Impact

  • Probing and potentially exploiting an internal Web application’s vulnerabilities can be a prelude to a targeted attack getting access to data and then exfiltrating it
  • Application software that passes SQL statements in HTTP Post data or as part of a URL may be vulnerable to attackers as they can send very different input than the application writer expects

Steps to Verify

  1. Verify systems identified as the source of SQL injection attacks should be communicating directly with SQL servers; download the PCAP to see the entire HTTP Post data or the URL to determine if its behaving as expected
  2. If this pattern is coming from neither an IT-run vulnerability scanner nor from software that by design sends SQL statements in requests, check for presence of malware on the host

Example of an SQL Injection activity

For this example, we’re going to pivot from a detection, if you come across an SQL Injection Activity detection you can follow these steps to investigate further. First identify active SQL Injection Activity detections within the detect platform that are not triaged, navigate to Detections > Advanced Search and type the following query into the search field:

detection.detection_type:”SQL Injection Activity” AND detection.is_ triaged:false AND NOT detection.state:inactive

Pick one of the detections and review the details, note the source, target, the X-Forwarded-For header, port used and bytes received. If the bytes received is large it could indicate a successful SQL injection and database information was returned to the adversary, review the pcap to see what response data the requests were being met with. The response codes are not reliable here for SQL Injection, a server could respond to the clients request with an error code and yet still return valid data as the SQL statement was successful.

Next review the X-Forwarded For header IP, it’s likely your web server will be behind a proxy or load balancer and the source IP will not be the true source. With the X-Forwarded For header configured it will append the true public source as a header to the HTTP request allowing the Vectra AI-driven platform to parse this information and present it within the UI.

Pivot into Vectra Recall and under Discover > metadata_httpsessioninfo* search for the X-forwarded-For IP using the proxied field and review all requests from this source. Start with a small window of maybe 10 to 20 minutes and gradually expand out your search time. Review the user-agent, targeted uri and bytes sent/received. These fields can help identify if this activity was an automated tool and if any of the requests were successful.

SQL Injection Activity

Possible root causes

Malicious Detection

  • An attacker is attempting to exploit SQL injection vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to data.
  • Use of automated tools or scripts to perform SQL injection attacks.
  • Insider threat where an employee intentionally exploits SQL injection vulnerabilities.

Benign Detection

  • Legitimate SQL queries that are complex and mistaken for injection attempts.
  • Security assessments or penetration tests involving SQL injection simulations.
  • Misconfigured applications generating unusual SQL queries.
SQL Injection Activity

Example scenarios

Scenario 1: An attacker uses an automated tool to perform SQL injection attacks on a company's public-facing web application. The detection is triggered by unusual SQL queries and errors logged by the database server.

Scenario 2: During a penetration test, the security team runs a series of SQL injection tests on the organization's web applications to evaluate their security. The detection is triggered, and the activity is verified as part of the scheduled assessment.

SQL Injection Activity

Business impact

If this detection indicates a genuine threat, the organization faces significant risks:

Data Manipulation

Attackers can alter, delete, or insert data, leading to data integrity issues.

Operational Disruption

SQL injection attacks can lead to application downtime or degraded performance.

Compliance Violations

Breaches involving personal or financial data can result in non-compliance with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and others.

SQL Injection Activity

Steps to investigate

SQL Injection Activity

MITRE ATT&CK techniques covered


What is SQL Injection?

SQL injection is a code injection technique where attackers insert malicious SQL queries into input fields, aiming to execute unauthorized SQL commands on a database.

What are the common signs of SQL injection activity?

Signs include unusual SQL queries or patterns, high volumes of SQL errors, presence of SQL keywords in input fields, and unauthorized or unusual data access patterns.

Can legitimate activities trigger the detection of SQL injection?

Yes, complex legitimate SQL queries, security assessments, or misconfigured applications can trigger this detection. It’s important to verify the context of the activity.

How does Vectra AI detect SQL injection activity?

Vectra AI uses advanced AI algorithms to analyze database and application logs, identifying patterns indicative of SQL injection attempts and correlating these with other suspicious behaviors.

What is the business impact of SQL injection activity?

The primary risks are data breaches, data manipulation, operational disruptions, and compliance violations, which can lead to significant harm to the organization.

How can I detect SQL injection activity in my environment?

Monitor database logs for unusual SQL queries, high volumes of SQL errors, detection of SQL keywords in unexpected input fields, and unauthorized data access patterns.

Why is SQL injection a significant threat?

Successful SQL injection attacks can lead to unauthorized data access, data manipulation, operational disruption, and compliance violations, causing significant harm to the organization.

What steps should I take if I detect SQL injection activity?

Investigate the source of the SQL queries, verify if they are authorized, check for other signs of malicious activity, and take steps to secure affected applications and databases.

What tools can help verify the presence of SQL injection activity?

Tools like database activity monitoring solutions, web application firewalls (WAFs), and threat detection and response systems can help identify and verify SQL injection activity.

What role does incident response play in managing SQL Injection threats?

An effective incident response plan plays a crucial role in managing SQL Injection threats by outlining specific steps to be taken when an attack is detected. This includes identifying and isolating affected systems, eradicating the threat, recovering any compromised data, and analyzing the attack to prevent future incidents.