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Not to be confused with Dependency injection.
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Code injection is the exploitation of a computer bug that is caused by processing invalid data. Code injection can be used by an attacker to introduce (or “inject”) code into a computer program to change the course of execution. The results of a code injection attack can be disastrous. For instance, code injection is used by some computer worms to propagate.
Injection flaws occur when an application sends untrusted data to an interpreter. Injection flaws are very prevalent, particularly in legacy code. They are often found in SQL, LDAP, Xpath, or NoSQL queries; OS commands; XML parsers, SMTP Headers, program arguments, etc. Injection flaws are easy to discover when examining code, but frequently hard to discover via testing. Scanners and fuzzers can help attackers find injection flaws.
Injection can result in data loss or corruption, lack of accountability, or denial of access. Injection can sometimes lead to complete host takeover.
Certain types of code injection are errors in interpretation, giving special meaning to mere user input. Similar interpretation errors exist outside the world of computer science such as the comedy routine Who’s on First?. In the routine, there is a failure to distinguish proper names from regular words. Likewise, in some types of code injection, there is a failure to distinguish user input from system commands.
Code injection techniques are popular in system hacking or cracking to gain information, privilege escalation or unauthorized access to a system. Code injection can be used malevolently for many purposes, including:
- Arbitrarily modify values in a database through a type of code injection called SQL injection. The impact of this can range from website defacement to serious compromise of sensitive data.
- Install malware or execute malevolent code on a server, by injecting server scripting code (such as PHP or ASP).
- Privilege escalation to root permissions by exploiting Shell Injection vulnerabilities in a setuid root binary on UNIX, or Local System by exploiting a service on Windows.
- Attacking web users with HTML/Script Injection (Cross-site scripting).
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