You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

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

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 www.macromedia.com) 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 Car.com which provides automotive services (buy a car, sell a car, etc) over the Web. Car.com (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
    Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
    The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
    DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
    With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
    DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
    DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER give you detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO also offers s...
    With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
    Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
    Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
    Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
    Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
    The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
    Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
    Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
    Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
    As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
    Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
    Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...