CosmosDB and SQL Injection

Over the last few months I have started digging deep into CosmosDB. I have to say I really like it, and coming from someone who has used SQL Server since v4.2 on OS/2, that’s saying something!

To be honest, I have only used the SQL API, but eventually I will take a look at the Gremlin graph API.

Being a security guy, my first area of interest is SQL Injection – is it possible to build SQL statements that are subject to SQLi when using CosmosDB?

The answer is YES! (but read on)

In fact, querying CosmosDB using the SQL API is as vulnerable to SQLi as, say, SQL Server or Oracle or MySQL.

IMPORTANT This is not a vulnerability in ComsosDB; it’s an issue with any system that uses strings to build programming constucts. A similar example is Cross-site scripting (XSS) in web sites using
JavaScript (or Java or C# or PHP or Perl or Ruby or Python!) at the back-end. Remember, CosmosDB will give you back whatever you ask for (permissions aside) and this may be more than you bargained for if the query is built incorrectly from untrusted data.

Even if you don’t have CosmosDB setup in your Azure subscription (remember, you can get a free subscription) you can test this out.

  • Go to the CosmosDB query test site at
  • Run the default query and note you only get one document returned.
  • Now add ‘or 1=1’ at the end of the query (without the quotes) and re-run the query. You get 100 documents returned.

The fact that the ‘or 1=1’ clause changed the query and made it return all documents indicates a potential SQLi issue. If any arguments in the query came from an attacker, we’d be in a world of hurt. For those not aware, the ‘or 1=1’ clause at the end of query is true for every document in the database, so the query returns all documents.

Remedy If you’re programmatically querying CosmosDB, and handle untrusted input that is used to build queries, you must use parameterized queries. This is the same guidance that’s been around in other SQL APIs.

There’s a nice write-up about CosmosDB and parameterized queries here.
The methods you’ll use the most are SqlParameter and SqlParameterCollection.

TL;DR CosmosDB queries are subject to SQLi if you build queries incorrectly from untrusted data. Make sure your queries use parameterized queries, especially in the face of untrusted input.