Click here to close now.


You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson, Daniel Kaar

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Faster and Safer Database Queries Using the <CFQUERYPARAM> Tag

Faster and Safer Database Queries Using the <CFQUERYPARAM> Tag

Databases and database access are fundamental elements of just about every ColdFusion application ever created. Database access makes applications real and live and dynamic and valuable, but it's also a major source of performance problems and a primary potential security target. In this article I discuss an oft overlooked tag, <CFQUERYPARAM>, designed to help address both potential problems.

Understanding <CFQUERYPARAM>
Database access (queries, insertions, updates, etc.) occurs by issuing SQL statements - plain text strings containing combinations of special statements, keywords, clauses, operators, and more. These strings are passed to the DBMS for processing (usually via a database driver) and are sometimes referred to as being ad hoc.

So far so good. But this is where it gets a little complicated. There are an infinite number of possible SQL statements (when you take into account the values passed to them), so once a DBMS receives a SQL statement, the DBMS must first analyze it to determine if it's valid, and then work out the best way to process it. Often, the process of parsing, validating, and analyzing the query (the term query refers to all SQL queries, even if they're not SELECT query operations) takes longer than processing the query itself.

Once the query is validated and analyzed, the DBMS tries to cache it so that the process won't need to be repeated unnecessarily. Simple queries without dynamic elements, like the following one, can be cached safely and easily:

FROM Customers

However, queries containing other clauses, like the one that follows, are a little harder to cache. After all, with an infinite number of variations it wouldn't be practical for the DBMS to cache them all:

FROM Customers
WHERE CustID=100

To cache this type of query the DBMS needs to know which part of the statement is dynamic and which is not, and that's where <CFQUERYPARAM> comes into play.

<CFQUERYPARAM> is a tag used within SQL statements (inside your <CFQUERY>). It replaces parameters (or any passed values) with placeholders that indicate the dynamic portions of a statement. For example:

FROM Customers

The <CFQUERYPARAM> tag replaces the passed value (100), and does two things: it defines the type of data that will be passed here and then passes the value to be used.

The actual SQL generated by this query will differ from DBMS to DBMS, but that's somewhat irrelevant. The important thing is that the DBMS knows that the query containing this block of text won't change (and can therefore be cached):

FROM Customers

In DBMSese these variable portions of SQL statements, the ones bookmarked with <CFQUERYPARAM>, are known as bind parameters.

Specifying SQL Types
The data type passed to CFSQLTYPE tells the DBMS to expect data of a particular type. The supported types are:



    CFSQLTYPE is an optional at-tribute, but as a rule you should always specify an explicit type. The default value is CF_SQL_CHAR (a string) and is frequently not what you need.

    Increased Performance
    As already implied, the first benefit of using <CFQUERYPARAM> is increased performance. If the DBMS doesn't have to parse, analyze, and validate as much text, it'll be able to respond to requests quicker and more efficiently.

    It's common knowledge that stored procedures execute faster than ad hoc SQL statements. Part of the reason for this is that DBMSs cache the compiled stored procedures so they won't need to be processed repeatedly and unnecessarily. By using <CFQUERYPARAM> you get some of the benefits of stored procedures without having to write one.

    If you're interested in determining what the actual performance benefit is, turn on ColdFusion debugging output and try the queries both ways. As the DBMS load increases, so should the benefit of using bind parameters.

    Protecting from Malicious URL Tampering
    Note: As a rule I'm staunchly opposed to documenting security issues and how they're used, but as this particular vulnerability has been documented extensively (there are even Knowledge Base articles about it at I'm making an exception this time.

    Another benefit to using <CF-QUERYPARAM> is security against malicious URL tampering. Consider the following example, an adaptation of the one used previously:

    SELECT *
    FROM Customers
    WHERE CustID=#URL.custid#

    Here a WHERE clause is populated dynamically using a URL parameter. This type of code is common and popular, and is used any time data drilldown of any kind is used. If the URL was:


    the resulting SQL statement would be:

    SELECT *
    FROM Customers
    WHERE CustID=100

    But what if someone tampered with that URL so that it read:


    The resulting SQL would be:

    SELECT *
    FROM Customers
    WHERE CustID=100;
    DELETE Customers

    Depending on the DBMS being used, the <CFQUERY> could end up executing two statements - the SELECT and then DELETE Customers (which would promptly delete all data from the Customers table).

    Scared? You should be. As I mentioned earlier SQL statements are not just used for queries. They're also used to create and drop tables, create user logins, change DBMS passwords, set security levels, manage scheduled events, even create and drop entire databases. All features supported by your DBMS may be accessible this way.

    Before I go further I must point out that this is not a ColdFusion vulnerability; it's not even a bug or a hole. This is truly a feature - many DBMSs do indeed allow queries to contain more than a single operation; this is legal and by design.

    Of course, you should always be checking parameters before passing them to your DBMS. Passing URL parameters through unchecked is programmatic suicide. As such, you should already be using code like this:

    <CFIF IsDefined("URL.CustID")
    AND NOT IsNumeric(URL.CustID)>
    ... throw an error or something ...

    But <CFQUERYPARAM> provides one extra line of defense. If the previous tampered URL was passed to the following query, the value would be rejected and an error thrown. The CFSQLTYPE value also doubles as a datatype validation check, and values that don't match the type are rejected. Using <CFQUERYPARAM> you can secure yourself against one of the oldest and best-known hacks in the book.

    Note: This type of hack is one of the reasons you should never configure ColdFusion to use administrative accounts for database access (the SA account, for example). As a rule, the login specified in the data source definition should have just the access it needs and nothing more. If administrative access is not available to a login, then some of the more dangerous commands wouldn't be executable.

    <CFQUERYPARAM> is not a new tag; it's been in ColdFusion since version 4.5. However, many developers have yet to use <CFQUERYPARAM>, primarily because they don't understand it. Most good DBMSs (including SQL Server and Oracle) support the use of bind parameters, but some don't. Be sure to read the docs on this tag, and then start plugging it into any new code and even existing apps. With increased performance and improved security you'd be remiss not to.

  • More Stories By Ben Forta

    Ben Forta is Adobe's Senior Technical Evangelist. In that capacity he spends a considerable amount of time talking and writing about Adobe products (with an emphasis on ColdFusion and Flex), and providing feedback to help shape the future direction of the products. By the way, if you are not yet a ColdFusion user, you should be. It is an incredible product, and is truly deserving of all the praise it has been receiving. In a prior life he was a ColdFusion customer (he wrote one of the first large high visibility web sites using the product) and was so impressed he ended up working for the company that created it (Allaire). Ben is also the author of books on ColdFusion, SQL, Windows 2000, JSP, WAP, Regular Expressions, and more. Before joining Adobe (well, Allaire actually, and then Macromedia and Allaire merged, and then Adobe bought Macromedia) he helped found a company called which provides automotive services (buy a car, sell a car, etc) over the Web. (including Stoneage) is one of the largest automotive web sites out there, was written entirely in ColdFusion, and is now owned by Auto-By-Tel.

    Comments (7) View Comments

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

    Most Recent Comments
    fgfrs 05/05/03 03:12:00 PM EDT

    b nv mn m

    Srinivasa 08/22/02 04:02:00 AM EDT
    Mo Hadi 02/13/02 12:07:00 PM EST

    There must be some kind of special set up necessary to do this, because I get the following error when after I change my code to use CFQUERYPARAM. Am I right?

    ODBC Error Code = S1C00 (Driver not capable)

    [Microsoft][ODBC SQL Server Driver]Optional feature not implemented

    David Shadovitz 02/12/02 03:28:00 PM EST

    Oops. CFDJ's code cut out my example CFML. Let's see if this gets through:

    WHERE id IN (<cfqueryparam value="#Form.ID#" cfsqltype="CF_SQL_INTEGER" list="yes">)

    David Shadovitz 02/12/02 03:25:00 PM EST

    As BF mentions, the default value of cfsqltype is CF_SQL_CHAR.

    If you get the error "ODBC Error Code = S1104 (Invalid precision value)", try using CF_SQL_VARCHAR instead.

    David Shadovitz 02/12/02 03:22:00 PM EST

    It's worth mentioning that CFQUERYPARAM can also be used with a list of values:

    ... WHERE ID IN ()

    Brad Howerter 02/12/02 01:06:00 PM EST

    Another benefit of is that you don't have to mess with preserveSingleQuotes().

    @ThingsExpo Stories
    The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will explore the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
    Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context w...
    The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
    The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
    Electric power utilities face relentless pressure on their financial performance, and reducing distribution grid losses is one of the last untapped opportunities to meet their business goals. Combining IoT-enabled sensors and cloud-based data analytics, utilities now are able to find, quantify and reduce losses faster – and with a smaller IT footprint. Solutions exist using Internet-enabled sensors deployed temporarily at strategic locations within the distribution grid to measure actual line loads.
    You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
    Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
    The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
    Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
    The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll share tips on how to speed up business initiatives, harness Big Data and remain one step ahead by apply...
    There will be 20 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet soon. What if we could control these devices with our voice, mind, or gestures? What if we could teach these devices how to talk to each other? What if these devices could learn how to interact with us (and each other) to make our lives better? What if Jarvis was real? How can I gain these super powers? In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, will show you!
    SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
    As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, will keynote at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
    Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
    "Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
    Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.