Security Experts:

SQL Injection Remains Top Web Application Attack Vector

According to separate reports from data security firm Imperva, and FireHost, a cloud hosting company, SQL Injection (SQLi) attacks were the number one attack vector in the first half of 2012. The data seems to align with the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, which stated that in a majority of cases (80%) examined, Web applications were the top target for attackers.

As noted by Imperva, an attacker sees an application as a gateway to the data they’re after. However, in their latest Web Application Attack Report, the security vendor explains that the driving factor in the growth of application attacks is the automation of the various attack tools themselves.

This means that a potential victim can expect attacks on their applications 33% of the time, or 120 days a year, reaching a peak of 80% of the time. When under attack, Imperva noted that the typical campaign last about eight minutes. However, the longest attack they recorded during the reports research period lasted 79 minutes.

“The intensity of the attack will be overwhelming if the defense side was prepared for the average case (27 or 18 attacks per hour as discovered on our previous reports) as the attack will consist of hundreds or even thousands of individual attack requests,” Imperva’s report noted.

The fact that SQL injection remained the number one type of application attack was mirrored in a separate report from FireHost, who examined attack data obtained during Q2 2012.

According to FireHost one of the most significant changes in attack traffic between Q1 and Q2 2012 was a 69% increase in SQLi attacks. The cloud hosting company said that it blocked 277,770 attacks in the first quarter, which then jumped to 469,983 between April and June. The FireHost report did account for new customer growth in a weighted way in order to ensure the trend numbers hold validity, a company spokesperson told SecurityWeek.

"Many, many sites have lost customer data in this way," said Chris Hinkley, CISSP – a Senior Security Engineer at FireHost. "SQL Injection attacks are often automated and many website owners may be blissfully unaware that their data could actively be at risk. These attacks can be detected and businesses should be taking basic and blanket steps to block attempted SQL Injection, as well as the other types of attacks we frequently see."

As for the source of the attacks, Imperva says that France was the top origin for SQLi attacks, with four times as many attacks originating from there as there were from the U.S.

The Imperva report can be read here, while FireHost’s data can be seen in more detail here

Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.