Web applications have become an invaluable part of maintaining digital assets for businesses. These programs allowed organizations to perform various operations without the need to download a program. Likewise, web apps can be accessed by anyone within an organization through multiple platforms and browsers. 

XSS and SQL Injection Attacks: Defining and Differentiating

While the benefits of web applications for your operation are boundless, it is not without its drawbacks. If left unsecured, these programs are notorious for being an access point malicious actors can exploit. Amongst the most daunting threats posed against web applications are SQL injection and cross-site script attacks. This article explores both XSS and SQL injection attacks, including the different types of each cybersecurity risk as well as the difference between both. 

What is SQL Injection Attack?

An SQL injection attack, otherwise known as SQLi, is one of the most common web application risks hackers use to gain access to sensitive information. It manipulates SQL code in order to access information that isn’t meant to be publicly displayed. More often than not, successful SQLi threats result from a failure to use data sanitizing and validation methods to verify the legitimacy of the information input in forms, cookies, or HTTP headers. 

How Does an SQL Injection Attack Work?

To understand SQLi attacks, it is essential to know what SQL queries are in the first place. SQL, which stands for a structured query language, is a standardized form of coding language used to access and organize databases to create unique data setups for individual users. 

Each part of the SQL statement is essential. Inputting an additional character, for instance, an equal sign can change the query structure. Attackers exploit this information by injecting SQL control characters and commands within legitimate SQL statements. 

What are the Different Types of SQL Injection Attacks?

For the most part, all SQLi attacks fall under three general types: In-band SQL, Inferential SQLi, and Out-of-Band SQLi. These three categories are differentiated based on how hackers gain access to backend databases and the extent of the potential damage. 

  • In-Band

In-Band SQLi attacks are known for their simplicity and efficiency. This type of SQLi utilizes the same channel of communication to springboard the attack and gather results. 

There are two primary forms of In-Band attacks – error-based and union-based. Error-based SQLi causes the database to produce error messages. Attackers then use the data gathered through these error messages to learn more about the structure of the database they are trying to gain access to. Union-based attacks, on the other hand, exploit the UNION SQL operator. 

  • Inferential

Inferential SQLi attacks are more concerned about identifying response and behavioral patterns in order to gain access to a database. This is done by sending messages to the server and observing the reaction of the server to learn more about the database. This type of SQLi attack is often called blind SQLi because the attacker doesn’t necessarily see the information. 

  • Out-of-Band

This form of SQLi isn’t as popular as In-Band and Inferential attacks. Out-of-Band threats rely on enabled features on a database server through a web app. Hackers that employ out-of-band techniques do not use the same channel to launch the attack and gather information. 

What is Cross-site Scripting Attack?

Cross-Site Scripting Attacks, or XSS, are cybersecurity threats that employ malicious executable scripts of code on legitimate applications or websites. Most of the time, hackers who use XSS attacks send a malicious link to a user, hoping that they would click it. Once clicked, the link executes the script to further the hacker’s goals. 

As the name suggests, cross-site scripting attacks are different from other forms of cybersecurity threats because the attack code has a different origin than the legitimate website visited. 

How Does a Cross-site Scripting Attack Work

Hackers carry out an XSS attack by injecting malicious code onto an otherwise legitimate user-provided input field. If the website in question doesn’t have the necessary security features, a trigger can execute the malicious script. The trigger can come in many forms. It can be anything as benign as a page loading or a user hovering over a hyperlink. 

What are the Different Types of Cross-Site Scripting Attacks?

Similar to SQL attacks, there are three different types of XSS attacks: 

  • Stored XSS

Stored XSS attacks happen when hackers inject malicious information into a database. When specific data is requested, it renders to the user making the request. 

  • Reflected XSS

This form of XSS attack executes when a web app sends malicious strings to a user’s browser. Once received, the browser executes the string of code. 

  • DOM-based XSS

DOM-based XSS attacks occur when a malicious actor injects code into a database response. 

What is the Difference Between XSS and SQL Injection Attacks? 

Both XSS and SQL injection attacks can cause significant damage to an organization’s database. The main difference between these cybersecurity threats lies in the intent and goal of the attacks. For the most part, SQL attacks are utilized to steal information from databases. Consequently, XSS attacks are developed to redirect users to a non-legitimate website to extract information from them. In essence, SQL attacks are more focused on gaining information on the database, while XSS attacks are geared towards attacking end-users. 

Digitizing your operation is no easy feat. Aside from the cost of the ordeal, it takes plenty of effort and time to create digital assets that work for your company. Nevertheless, protecting your investment should be a priority. As they say, knowing the problem is half the battle won. With the information above, you can safeguard your web applications from XSS and SQL injection attacks. 

Are you looking for an added layer of protection? Securebrain’s GRED Web Check and GRED Web Security might be the tools you are looking for. These two products provide users a means to monitor, send alerts, and assess vulnerabilities within your network. They are a great supplement to your cybersecurity measures and a great defense strategy against XSS and SQL injection attacks.

We at SecureBrain are eager to take your cybersecurity measures to the next level. Contact us today to learn more about our services.