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CAPEC-193: PHP Remote File Inclusion

Attack Pattern ID: 193
Abstraction: Detailed
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+ Description
In this pattern the adversary is able to load and execute arbitrary code remotely available from the application. This is usually accomplished through an insecurely configured PHP runtime environment and an improperly sanitized "include" or "require" call, which the user can then control to point to any web-accessible file. This allows adversaries to hijack the targeted application and force it to execute their own instructions.
+ Likelihood Of Attack


+ Typical Severity


+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table 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.
ChildOfStandard Attack PatternStandard 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.253Remote Code Inclusion
Section HelpThis table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
+ Execution Flow
  1. Survey application: Using a browser or an automated tool, an adversary follows all public links on a web site. They record all the links they find.

    Use a spidering tool to follow and record all links. Make special note of any links that include parameters in the URL.
    Use a proxy tool to record all links visited during a manual traversal of the web application. Make special note of any links that include parameters in the URL. Manual traversal of this type is frequently necessary to identify forms that are GET method forms rather than POST forms.
    Use a browser to manually explore the website and analyze how it is constructed. Many browser's plugins are available to facilitate the analysis or automate the URL discovery.
  1. Attempt variations on input parameters: The attack variants make use of a remotely available PHP script that generates a uniquely identifiable output when executed on the target application server. Possibly using an automated tool, an adversary requests variations on the inputs they surveyed before. They send parameters that include variations of payloads which include a reference to the remote PHP script. They record all the responses from the server that include the output of the execution of remote PHP script.

    Use a list of probe strings to inject in parameters of known URLs. The probe strings are variants of PHP remote file inclusion payloads which include a reference to the adversary controlled remote PHP script.
    Use a proxy tool to record results of manual input of remote file inclusion probes in known URLs.
  1. Run arbitrary server-side code: As the adversary succeeds in exploiting the vulnerability, they are able to execute server-side code within the application. The malicious code has virtual access to the same resources as the targeted application. Note that the adversary might include shell code in their script and execute commands on the server under the same privileges as the PHP runtime is running with.

    Develop malicious PHP script that is injected through vectors identified during the Experiment Phase and executed by the application server to execute a custom PHP script.
+ Prerequisites
Target application server must allow remote files to be included in the "require", "include", etc. PHP directives
The adversary must have the ability to make HTTP requests to the target web application.
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
To inject the malicious payload in a web page
[Level: Medium]
To bypass filters in the application
+ Resources Required
None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack.
+ Consequences
Section HelpThis table 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.
Modify Data
Read Data
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Gain Privileges
Access Control
Bypass Protection Mechanism
+ Mitigations
Implementation: Perform input validation for all remote content, including remote and user-generated content
Implementation: Only allow known files to be included (allowlist)
Implementation: Make use of indirect references passed in URL parameters instead of file names
Configuration: Ensure that remote scripts cannot be include in the "include" or "require" PHP directives
+ Example Instances
  • The adversary controls a PHP script on a server ""
  • The .txt extension is given so that the script doesn't get executed by the server, and it will be downloaded as text. The target application is vulnerable to PHP remote file inclusion as following: include($_GET['filename'] . '.txt')
  • The adversary creates an HTTP request that passes their own script in the include: with the concatenation of the ".txt" prefix, the PHP runtime download the attack's script and the content of the script gets executed in the same context as the rest of the original script.
+ References
[REF-59] "WASC Threat Classification 2.0". WASC-05 - Remote File Inclusion. The Web Application Security Consortium (WASC). 2010. <>.
[REF-60] Shaun Clowes. "A Study In Scarlet, Exploiting Common Vulnerabilities in PHP Applications". Blackhat Briefings Asia 2001. <>.
[REF-30] "OWASP Top 10 2007". OWASP Top 10 2007 A3 – Malicious File Execution. 2007. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). <>.
[REF-621] "OWASP Vulnerabilities". PHP File Inclusion. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(Version 2.6)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modification DateModifierOrganization
(Version 2.11)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Attack_Phases, Attack_Prerequisites, Description Summary, Examples-Instances, Payload_Activation_Impact, Resources_Required
(Version 2.12)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References
(Version 3.1)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Consequences
(Version 3.3)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Example_Instances, Execution_Flow, Mitigations
(Version 3.4)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References
(Version 3.5)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Weaknesses
(Version 3.8)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Example_Instances
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018