Glossary Glossary

Code Injection

A code injection is a cyber attack where threat actors inject malicious code into an application. When the code executes, attackers can take control of a target system, bypass security controls, and steal data.

Code injection attacks typically exploit application vulnerabilities and weaknesses that allow the processing of invalid user inputs. For example, attackers may submit a search query with malicious code disguised as normal data. If the application does not validate the input, the code will execute along with the legitimate search query.

These vulnerabilities can be detected by external attack surface management (EASM) platforms when they map an organization’s attack surface.

Table of Contents

Code Injection: A Deep Dive

What Security Issues Can Cause Code Injection?

The Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) mapped several Common Weakness Enumerations (CWEs) that can lead to code injection. Below are some of the most noteworthy CWEs.

  • CWE-20 Improper Input Validation: Improper input validation is a software security weakness that occurs when a program fails to properly validate the data it receives from external sources. A web application that does not validate user inputs in a search bar can allow attackers to inject a malicious script disguised as text. When a user triggers the injection by typing the text in the search bar, the malicious script executes within the user’s browser.
  • CWE-79 Improper Neutralization of Input during Web Page Generation (Cross-Site Scripting [XSS]): XSS vulnerabilities occur when a web application does not properly neutralize or sanitize user inputs before displaying them on a web page. An example would be when attackers embed a fake login box into a page by inserting a malicious script into a legitimate URL since the web page does not remove potentially harmful characters from inputs. When users click the URL, they will see the fake login page, allowing attackers to receive any information they type.
  • CWE-89 Improper Neutralization of Special Elements Used in a Structured Query Language (SQL) Command (SQL Injection): Attackers can exploit this weakness by injecting malicious code into SQL queries, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to or modify data in a database. In 2021, for example, attackers exploited a SQL injection vulnerability in the login form of a time and billing software to deploy ransomware.

Detecting these weaknesses and other vulnerabilities that could lead to code injection and its underlying risks is part of the entire EASM process, particularly in the vulnerability detection phase when mapping the entire external attack surface.

code injection

How Does Code Injection Impact Organizations?

Code injection effects can be severe and far-reaching, affecting everything from individual users to entire organizations. Some of its most common effects include:

  • Data breaches: An injected code can allow attackers to steal sensitive information like usernames, passwords, financial data, medical records, customer data, financial information, and trade secrets.
  • Financial loss: Organizations may face fines, legal fees, and other costs associated with data breaches and security incidents.
  • Operational disruption: Code injection attacks can disrupt critical system operations, leading to downtime, lost productivity, and financial loss.
  • Reputational damage: Data breaches and other security incidents can harm an organization’s reputation and erode customer trust.
  • Hijacking and takeover: An injected code can be used to take control of a target application or system, allowing attackers to manipulate functionality, steal resources, or launch further attacks.

Key Takeaways

  • A code injection is a cyber attack where threat actors inject malicious code into an application.
  • When executed, an injected code can enable attackers to steal data, take over a target system, or launch more attacks.
  • Some CWEs that can enable code injection are CWE-20 (improper input validation), CWE-79 (XSS), and CWE-89 (SQL injection).

Ready to see how Attaxion can uncover security issues that could lead to code injection in your attack surface? Schedule a free demo tailored to your organization now.

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