Uncontrolled Data Used in Path Expression: A Cyber Security Threat


Samir Ranjan Parhi


30 April 2024

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Estimated Read Time:

4 minutes

It is essential in the field of software development to provide people control over their data and experiences. Users’ experiences are improved when they can build unique queries using user-controlled sources, which also gives them a sense of control and flexibility. This strategy has a lot of advantages, but it also has its share of drawbacks and potential problems. Security Concerns: The security of user-controlled queries is one of the most important challenges. Malicious users could take advantage of security flaws like SQL injection, giving them access to the application’s data or the ability to change it. The following recommendation can be used to resolve this problem: a. Input Validation: Thoroughly validate and sanitize user input to prevent unauthorized characters or SQL commands from being executed. a. Parameterized Queries: When working with databases, utilize parameterized queries to avoid directly inserting user input into the query. c. The least privilege principle: Make sure that the database user for the application has the fewest rights necessary to carry out the needed actions, minimizing the possible impact of an attack. Example: The below method implements a Java example of Parameterised query: import java.sql.Timestamp; //Include your main class here with method //The method declaration for update a product in a Schema

public int updateProduct(String schemaName, String tableName, Strin proudId,
            String autoIncreamentColumn, String user) throws Exception {
        jdbcTemplate = getJdbcTemplate();
        String query = " UPDATE " + schemaName + "." + tableName
                + " SET processed = 'P' , SyncedDate = ?, Syncedby = ? WHERE " + autoIncreamentColumn
                + " IN (" + proudId + ")";
        Timestamp syncedDate = new Timestamp(System.currentTimeMillis());
        int updatedRows = jdbcTemplate.update(query, syncedDate, user);
return updatedRows;

Here ? denotes the positional parameters for syncedDate and user .

Complexities :
Performance Impact:

Allowing users to create complex and dynamic queries can impact the application’s performance, especially with large datasets. To mitigate performance issues: a. Limit Complexity: Set reasonable constraints on the complexity and size of user-generated queries to prevent excessive database load.

b. Caching: Implement caching mechanisms to store frequently accessed query results, reducing the need to execute the same query repeatedly.

c. Indexing: Optimize the database schema with appropriate indexes to improve query performance.

Data Integrity:

When users construct their queries, there is a risk of retrieving inaccurate or irrelevant data, leading to skewed results or misinterpretations. To maintain data integrity:

a. Provide Guidance: Provide users with clear guidelines and tooltips to assist them in formulating accurate and relevant queries.

b. User Feedback: Implement user feedback mechanisms to collect insights on the usefulness and relevance of query results.

User Experience and Usability:

An overly complex or confusing user interface can deter users from utilizing the query-building feature to its full potential. To enhance user experience:

a. Intuitive Design: Design a user-friendly interface with clear labels and intuitive controls to help users navigate and construct queries effortlessly.

b. Query Previews: Provide a query preview feature, allowing users to see the results before executing the query.

c. Error Handling: Implement informative error messages that guide users when their queries contain errors or return no results.

Compatibility with Data Sources:

The queries built by users must be compatible with the underlying data sources. Different data sources may have varying query languages or capabilities. To ensure compatibility:

a. Abstraction Layer: Implement an abstraction layer that translates user-generated queries into the appropriate syntax for each data source.

b. Data Source Validation: Verify and validate user-generated queries against the capabilities of the specific data source.


The ability to build queries from user-controlled sources has brought immense value to modern software applications. However, developers must remain vigilant about the challenges that come with this feature. By prioritizing security, performance, data integrity, user experience, and compatibility, developers can overcome these challenges and create a robust and user-friendly query-building system.

Empowering users with control over their queries can lead to higher user satisfaction, increased engagement, and a deeper connection with the application. Striking the right balance between flexibility and control while addressing potential issues will pave the way for a successful and empowering user experience.