STATIC CODE

Static Code Analysis Tools for SQL Databases – What Can Be Done?

intro

Static code analysis is one of the tools that help us make our code safe and secure for everyone to use. It’s considered safer than other code analysis methods because when static code analysis is in use, only the code itself is examined and the program isn’t executed – that does come with its own upsides and downsides, and today we’re looking into what can be done to improve SQL code analysis in that regard.

SQL Code and Code Analysis

To start with, standalone SQL code isn’t the type of code that’s analyzed the most frequently – it’s a thing, but it’s frequently analyzed together with other programming languages that make SQL “tick” such as PHP, ASP.NET, C++, and others.

When people hear of the term “SQL code analysis”, some of them automatically assume that there must be something wrong with the security side of the product. In most of the cases, that’s not true – while user input provided straight into a SQL query is the driving factor of SQL injection, SQL code in and of itself isn’t harmful or threatening – it’s only in the hands of less security-conscious DBAs and developers that it becomes a problem.

Things to Note

As far as SQL code analysis is concerned, we’re looking at a couple of things:

  • The ability to dissect SQL queries and turn them into semantic or other types of trees where possible to come across warnings, diagnostics, and other things.
  • The SQL query format as a whole – is it selecting data from unnecessary columns? etc.
  • The data types of columns used within the SQL query. Are they likely to cause problems?
  • Adherence to SQL standards. This one’s pretty self-explanatory – we need to find out whether our SQL code follows standards and what kind of standards we’re following.
  • Data flow – do we have any knowledge of how does data flow within our application?

Meta (Facebook) has written a piece on SQL query analysis not long ago so if you’re interested in more details, have a read here, but the aforementioned aspects are the crux of it.

Improving SQL Code

Now that you know what code analysis tools look for in SQL code, you’re probably asking yourself – how do I improve the code within my application? What can I do?

The answer, thankfully, is plain and simple – follow standards when writing SQL code and when working with your databases in general – there’s not much you can do otherwise. Here are a few tips to avoid getting on the radar of static SQL analysis tools:

  • Use a top-rated SQL client to work with your database instances. No matter if you’re using SQL Server, MySQL server or MariaDB, PostgreSQL or ClickHouse, you’re using a system to interact with data. That system needs to be taken care of and worked with properly. SQL clients like the one provided by DbVisualizer can help you immensely in this task.
  • Maintain clarity of the goal you aim to achieve when writing code – there’s no need to overthink every line of code you write, but you should always have an end goal in mind – ask yourself on and off: does this code block or SQL query help me in the long run? Can I rewrite this SQL query for it to help me better in the future? You’ll be surprised how many times you will just turn around and re-do something.
  • Ask your colleagues. Seriously – this world is a social place; there are pretty big chances of the guy sitting across the table from you knowing a little more about this specific SQL query you may be optimizing. Just ask.
  • Follow standards. There’s no need to read 1142 pages defining SQL standards for your next project, but knowing the basics of what does what will definitely help. There are even PDFs outlining the standards you’d need to follow, but if you’re too lazy to read through all of them, you can always just check the docs.
  • Follow security best practices. Just as you’re following standards, follow security best practices too – check on OWASP releases now and then, binge on blogs, and you should be good to go.
  • Learn – that may mean reading blogs like this one (we know you’re after more content – find it here), watching video content, or going to conferences. Everything helps.

Finally, keep in mind that experience goes a long way – if you’re a web developer with 20+ years of experience, some things may be clear as day to you; for others, they may not. Always apply applicable experience and look into the past to avoid repeating the same mistakes you’ve made previously: do that, try our SQL client for free today, and until next time.

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About the author
LukasVileikisPhoto
Lukas Vileikis
Lukas Vileikis is an ethical hacker and a frequent conference speaker. He runs one of the biggest & fastest data breach search engines in the world - BreachDirectory.com, frequently speaks at conferences and blogs in multiple places including his blog over at lukasvileikis.com.
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