Language Community Litmus Test: Database Placeholders

Search for “[language] database tutorial”. Out of the top 5 results, how many of them show how to use safe practices (preferably placeholders, but safe quoting functions are OK, too) at the earliest available opportunity?

I award a score of 5 points for the first result, 4 for the second, and so on. A perfect score would be 15. If the first INSERT or SELECT statement has simple static data, I give it a pass and find the first statement that’s filling in data from variables.

  • Haskell: 15
  • Python: 12
  • Perl: 11
  • Ruby: 11
  • Node.js: 4
  • PHP: 4

There are some caveats with the judging of this data:

  • Haskell’s interfaces seem to use declarative functions to build the SQL statement rather than concatenating strings. I’m presuming these libraries quote things safely.
  • The third result for Python was to a wiki page that linked to various database-related info. Many of the links had placeholders and quoting mentioned early on, so I gave it points for this one.
  • The last two results on Python were to a Stack Overflow question without many direct examples, and a YouTube vid that has no dynamic statement usage. No points for these.
  • Perl’s second link was to an (??!) tutorial with no placeholders/quote functions shown. I think we in the Perl community might need to fix our SEO on this one.
  • Ruby’s second result was to a general Rails tutorial without much direct SQL access. No points here, but like Perl’s result, this may be more of a case of bad SEO.
  • Tempted not to give points to Ruby’s third result, which took a while to get to a statement with any dynamic data. But when you got there, it did do it safely, so I gave it a pass.
  • Edit: I initially didn’t give Ruby points for the fourth link. It was a short page that had no complex SQL statements. I see now that it’s one part of a larger document, and the subsequent link does use Ruby ActiveRecords. Ruby now gets points for this.
  • Fifth Ruby result was a link to the Ruby/DBI homepage. Clicked on “tutorial” sidebar link, which did show best practices, so I gave it points.
  • This test is perhaps unfair towards Node.js, because most of its top results covered MongoDB rather than an SQL database. While I have mean things to say about NoSQL, critiquing it wasn’t the intent of this test. The second link does use SQL, and does things correctly, so points awarded there.
  • All but the second PHP result concatenates $_POST[‘…’] or $_GET[‘…’] directly into statements in its earliest examples. The second result is trying desperately to show how things should be done, and is the only one to get points. One bad result can be passed off as an SEO issue. All but one is a real problem.
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One Response to Language Community Litmus Test: Database Placeholders

  1. Jim says:

    I independently reinvented this litmus test, except with mail injection headers, which I find to give roughly the same results. I would expect the same to be true of XSS holes, except I’m not sure that there’s an easily searchable term to uncover the right kinds of tutorials.

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