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CAPEC-23: File Content Injection

File Content Injection
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 23
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

An attack of this type exploits the host's trust in executing remote content, including binary files. The files are poisoned with a malicious payload (targeting the file systems accessible by the target software) by the adversary and may be passed through standard channels such as via email, and standard web content like PDF and multimedia files. The adversary exploits known vulnerabilities or handling routines in the target processes. Vulnerabilities of this type have been found in a wide variety of commercial applications from Microsoft Office to Adobe Acrobat and Apple Safari web browser. When the adversary knows the standard handling routines and can identify vulnerabilities and entry points, they can be exploited by otherwise seemingly normal content. Once the attack is executed, the adversary's program can access relative directories such as C:\Program Files or other standard system directories to launch further attacks. In a worst case scenario, these programs are combined with other propagation logic and work as a virus.

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • The target software must consume files.

  • The adversary must have access to modify files that the target software will consume.

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Injection
  • API Abuse
+ Examples-Instances


PHP is a very popular language used for developing web applications. When PHP is used with global variables, a vulnerability may be opened that affects the file system. A standard HTML form that allows for remote users to upload files, may also place those files in a public directory where the adversary can directly access and execute them through a browser. This vulnerability allows remote adversaries to execute arbitrary code on the system, and can result in the adversary being able to erase intrusion evidence from system and application logs.


+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Medium

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Design: Enforce principle of least privilege

Design: Validate all input for content including files. Ensure that if files and remote content must be accepted that once accepted, they are placed in a sandbox type location so that lower assurance clients cannot write up to higher assurance processes (like Web server processes for example)

Design: Execute programs with constrained privileges, so parent process does not open up further vulnerabilities. Ensure that all directories, temporary directories and files, and memory are executing with limited privileges to protect against remote execution.

Design: Proxy communication to host, so that communications are terminated at the proxy, sanitizing the requests before forwarding to server host.

Implementation: Virus scanning on host

Implementation: Host integrity monitoring for critical files, directories, and processes. The goal of host integrity monitoring is to be aware when a security issue has occurred so that incident response and other forensic activities can begin.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Execute unauthorized code or commands
Run Arbitrary Code
+ Injection Vector

Payload delivered through standard communication protocols.

+ Payload

Command(s) executed directly on host filesystem

+ Activation Zone

Client machine and client network

+ Payload Activation Impact

Enables adversary to execute server side code with any commands that the program owner has privileges to.

+ Purposes
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: HighAvailability Impact: High
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ References
[R.23.1] [REF-2] G. Hoglund and G. McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. February 2004.
[R.23.2] [REF-42] "The OWASP Guide Project". File System. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/File_System>.
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2015-12-07Updated Related_Attack_PatternsInternal
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-08-04Updated Attack_Prerequisites, Description Summary, Examples-Instances, Payload_Activation_ImpactInternal
Previous Entry Names
DatePrevious Entry Name
2015-12-07File System Function Injection, Content Based

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: August 04, 2017