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CAPEC-83: XPath Injection

XPath Injection
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 83
Abstraction: Detailed
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

An attacker can craft special user-controllable input consisting of XPath expressions to inject the XML database and bypass authentication or glean information that he normally would not be able to. XPath Injection enables an attacker to talk directly to the XML database, thus bypassing the application completely. XPath Injection results from the failure of an application to properly sanitize input used as part of dynamic XPath expressions used to query an XML database.

+ Attack Steps
  1. Survey the target: Using a browser or an automated tool, an attacker records all instances of user-controllable input used to contruct XPath queries.

    Use an automated tool to record all instances of user-controllable input used to contruct XPath queries.

    Use a browser to manually explore the website and analyze how the application processes inputs.

  2. Determines the structure of queries: Using manual or automated means, query inputs found for XPath weaknesses.

    Use an automated tool automatically probe the inputs for XPath weaknesses.

    Manually probe the inputs using characters such as single quote (') that can cause XPath-releated errors, thus indicating an XPath weakness.

  1. Exploit the target: Craft malicious content containing XPath expressions that is not validated by the application and is executed as part of the XPath queries.

    Use the crafted input to execute unexpected queries that can disclose sensitive database information to the attacker.

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • XPath queries used to retrieve information stored in XML documents

  • User-controllable input not properly sanitized before being used as part of XPath queries

+ Typical Severity


+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Injection
+ Examples-Instances


Consider an application that uses an XML database to authenticate its users. The application retrieves the user name and password from a request and forms an XPath expression to query the database. An attacker can successfully bypass authentication and login without valid credentials through XPath Injection. This can be achieved by injecting the query to the XML database with XPath syntax that causes the authentication check to fail. Improper validation of user-controllable input and use of a non-parameterized XPath expression enable the attacker to inject an XPath expression that causes authentication bypass.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Low

XPath Injection shares the same basic premises with SQL Injection. An attacker must have knowledge of XPath syntax and constructs in order to successfully leverage XPath Injection

+ Resources Required

None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack.

+ Probing Techniques

The attacker tries to inject characters that can cause an XPath error, such as single-quote ('), or content that may cause a malformed XPath expression. If the injection of such content into the input causes an XPath error and the resulting error is displayed unfiltered, the attacker can begin to determine the nature of input validation and structure of XPath expressions used in queries.

+ Indicators-Warnings of Attack

Too many exceptions generated by the application as a result of malformed XPath queries

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Strong input validation - All user-controllable input must be validated and filtered for illegal characters as well as content that can be interpreted in the context of an XPath expression. Characters such as a single-quote(') or operators such as or (|), and (&) and such should be filtered if the application does not expect them in the context in which they appear. If such content cannot be filtered, it must at least be properly escaped to avoid them being interpreted as part of XPath expressions.

Use of parameterized XPath queries - Parameterization causes the input to be restricted to certain domains, such as strings or integers, and any input outside such domains is considered invalid and the query fails.

Use of custom error pages - Attackers can glean information about the nature of queries from descriptive error messages. Input validation must be coupled with customized error pages that inform about an error without disclosing information about the database or application.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Gain privileges / assume identity
Read application data
+ Injection Vector

User-controllable input used as part of dynamic XPath queries

+ Payload

XPath expressions intended to defeat checks run by XPath queries

+ Activation Zone

XML database

+ Payload Activation Impact

The impact of payload activation is that it is interpreted as part of the XPath expression used in the query, thus enabling an attacker to modify the expression used by the query.

+ Relevant Security Requirements

Special characters in user-controllable input must be escaped before use by the application.

Only use parameterized XPath expressions to query the XML database.

Custom error pages must be used to handle exceptions such that they do not reveal any information about the architecture of the application or the database.

+ Purposes
  • Penetration
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: HighAvailability Impact: Medium
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ References
[R.83.1] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-91 - XML Injection. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. 2007. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/91.html>.
[R.83.2] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-20 - Input Validation. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. 2007. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/20.html>.
[R.83.3] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-390 - Improper Error Handling. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. 2007. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/390.html>.
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-08-04Updated Attack_Phases, Description Summary, Resources_RequiredInternal

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: August 04, 2017