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.
Likelihood Of Attack
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
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.
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.
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.
XPath queries used to retrieve information stored in XML documents
User-controllable input not properly sanitized before being used as part of XPath queries
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
None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack.
Too many exceptions generated by the application as a result of malformed XPath queries
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
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.
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.
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
September 30, 2019