Week 4 Link to this heading

This week, we’ll be going over a more advanced SQL injection technique that is used more commonly in real-world situations. This week’s content assumes knowledge of basic SQL techniques, mainly covered in Week 3.

Blind SQL - An Introduction Link to this heading

Basic SQL injection usually relies on detailed error messages that provide the attacker enough information to create a working payload. The issue is that these errors are usually not shown to the user in web applications. Blind SQL forgoes the need for detailed error messages by asking a series of True/False questions. This specific technique is called boolean-based blind SQL injection. Ever played 20 questions? Blind SQL works similarly by getting information through queries that either may or may not produce a generic “Error”.

How can we test for SQL vulnerabilities? Here’s an example:

Here’s a vulnerable site:


The URL displays the item with id 5 through an SQL query. The SQL query could look like this (we don’t actually know!):

SELECT * FROM items where ID = 5

We can then add something to see how the webapp responds if an SQL query is false:

http://www.shop.test/item.php?id=5 and 1=2
This produces the SQL query:
SELECT * FROM items where ID = 5 and 1=2

Obviously, 1=2 is false! Perhaps we are taken to an error page. We now know what to expect when an SQL query is false. We can do the same thing with a true statement using ...item.php?id=5 and 1=1 and see the response. Now, we can craft our attack!

5 and (
    SELECT TOP 1 substring(name, 1, 1) FROM sysobjects --Selects the first row, extracting from the string object "name" - the first position with length 1
    WHERE id=(
        SELECT TOP 1 id FROM (
            SELECT TOP 1 id FROM sysobjects ORDER BY id)
        AS subq ORDER BY id DESC)
    ) = 'a'

sysobjects is a special table containing data about the tables in a database. There’s a lot going on here, but basically we are checking if the character ‘a’ is the first character of the name of the first table. Our URL would look like this:

https://www.shop.test/item.php?id=5 and (select top 1 substring(name, 1, 1) from sysobjects where id=(select top 1 id from (select top 1 id from sysobjects order by id) as subq order by id desc))='a'

If we don’t get the response we did for a statement that was false, then we know that the first character is a! If we do get a false response, then we can iterate through the alphabet until reaching the correct letter. After getting the correct letter, we can change the substring function arguments to (name, 2, 1) to look for the second character. This can continue until reaching the entire length of the word.

This is the basic idea to boolean-based blind SQL injection. We can use the same idea to determine a lot more information about an SQL database!

Exercise Link to this heading

I couldn’t find any boolean-based blind SQLi challenges that were hosted on an instance online… perhaps read a writeup of this picoCTF challenge from 2018.