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CAPEC-78: Using Escaped Slashes in Alternate Encoding

Attack Pattern ID: 78
Abstraction: Detailed
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
This attack targets the use of the backslash in alternate encoding. An adversary can provide a backslash as a leading character and causes a parser to believe that the next character is special. This is called an escape. By using that trick, the adversary tries to exploit alternate ways to encode the same character which leads to filter problems and opens avenues to attack.
+ 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.267Leverage Alternate Encoding
Section HelpThis table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
+ Execution Flow
  1. Survey the application for user-controllable inputs: Using a browser, an automated tool or by inspecting the application, an adversary records all entry points to the application.

    Use a spidering tool to follow and record all links and analyze the web pages to find entry points. Make special note of any links that include parameters in the URL.
    Use a proxy tool to record all user input entry points visited during a manual traversal of the web application.
    Use a browser to manually explore the website and analyze how it is constructed. Many browsers' plugins are available to facilitate the analysis or automate the discovery.
    Manually inspect the application to find entry points.
  1. Probe entry points to locate vulnerabilities: The adversary uses the entry points gathered in the "Explore" phase as a target list and attempts to escape multiple different special characters using a backslash.

    Escape a special character with a backslash to bypass input validation.
    Try different encodings of both the backslash and the special character to see if this bypasses input validation
  1. Manipulate input: Once the adversary determines how to bypass filters that filter out special characters using an escaped slash, they will manipulate the user input in a way that is not intended by the application.

+ Prerequisites
The application accepts the backlash character as escape character.
The application server does incomplete input data decoding, filtering and validation.
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
The adversary can naively try backslash character and discover that the target host uses it as escape character.
[Level: Medium]
The adversary may need deep understanding of the host target in order to exploit the vulnerability. The adversary may also use automated tools to probe for this vulnerability.
+ Indicators
An adversary can use a fuzzer in order to probe for this vulnerability. The fuzzer should generate suspicious network activity noticeable by an intrusion detection system.
+ 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.
Read Data
Resource Consumption
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Access Control
Bypass Protection Mechanism
+ Mitigations
Verify that the user-supplied data does not use backslash character to escape malicious characters.
Assume all input is malicious. Create an allowlist that defines all valid input to the software system based on the requirements specifications. Input that does not match against the allowlist should not be permitted to enter into the system.
Be aware of the threat of alternative method of data encoding.
Regular expressions can be used to filter out backslash. Make sure you decode before filtering and validating the untrusted input data.
In the case of path traversals, use the principle of least privilege when determining access rights to file systems. Do not allow users to access directories/files that they should not access.
Any security checks should occur after the data has been decoded and validated as correct data format. Do not repeat decoding process, if bad character are left after decoding process, treat the data as suspicious, and fail the validation process.
Avoid making decisions based on names of resources (e.g. files) if those resources can have alternate names.
+ Example Instances

For example, the byte pair \0 might result in a single zero byte (a NULL) being sent. Another example is \t, which is sometimes converted into a tab character. There is often an equivalent encoding between the back slash and the escaped back slash. This means that \/ results in a single forward slash. A single forward slash also results in a single forward slash. The encoding looks like this:

/ yields /
\/ yields /
Attack Example: Escaped Slashes in Alternate Encodings

An attack leveraging this pattern is very simple. If you believe the target may be filtering the slash, attempt to supply \/ and see what happens. Example command strings to try out include

CWD ..\/..\/..\/..\/winnt

which converts in many cases to

CWD ../../../../winnt

To probe for this kind of problem, a small C program that uses string output routines can be very useful. File system calls make excellent testing fodder. The simple snippet

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
puts("\/ \\ \? \. \| ");
return 0;


produces the output

/ \ ? . |

Clearly, the back slash is ignored, and thus we have hit on a number of alternative encodings to experiment with. Given our previous example, we can extend the attack to include other possibilities:

CWD ..\?\?\?\?\/..\/..\/..\/winnt
CWD \.\.\/\.\.\/\.\.\/\.\.\/winnt
CWD ..\|\|\|\|\/..\/..\/..\/winnt
+ References
[REF-1] G. Hoglund and G. McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. 2004-02.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2017-01-09CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2018-07-31CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References
2020-07-30CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Mitigations
2021-06-24CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Weaknesses
2022-02-22CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Description, Execution_Flow, Indicators, Skills_Required
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: October 21, 2021