CAPEC Details
Name Path Traversal
Likelyhood of attack Typical severity
High Very High
Summary An adversary uses path manipulation methods to exploit insufficient input validation of a target to obtain access to data that should be not be retrievable by ordinary well-formed requests. A typical variety of this attack involves specifying a path to a desired file together with dot-dot-slash characters, resulting in the file access API or function traversing out of the intended directory structure and into the root file system. By replacing or modifying the expected path information the access function or API retrieves the file desired by the attacker. These attacks either involve the attacker providing a complete path to a targeted file or using control characters (e.g. path separators (/ or \) and/or dots (.)) to reach desired directories or files.
Prerequisites The attacker must be able to control the path that is requested of the target. The target must fail to adequately sanitize incoming paths
Execution Flow
Step Phase Description Techniques
1 Explore [Fingerprinting of the operating system] In order to perform a valid path traversal, the attacker needs to know what the underlying OS is so that the proper file seperator is used.
  • Port mapping. Identify ports that the system is listening on, and attempt to identify inputs and protocol types on those ports.
  • TCP/IP Fingerprinting. The attacker uses various software to make connections or partial connections and observe idiosyncratic responses from the operating system. Using those responses, they attempt to guess the actual operating system.
  • Induce errors to find informative error messages
2 Explore [Survey the Application to Identify User-controllable Inputs] The attacker surveys the target application to identify all user-controllable file inputs
3 Experiment [Vary inputs, looking for malicious results] Depending on whether the application being exploited is a remote or local one, the attacker crafts the appropriate malicious input containing the path of the targeted file or other file system control syntax to be passed to the application
4 Exploit [Manipulate files accessible by the application] The attacker may steal information or directly manipulate files (delete, copy, flush, etc.)
Solutions Design: Configure the access control correctly. Design: Enforce principle of least privilege. 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: Input validation. Assume that user inputs are malicious. Utilize strict type, character, and encoding enforcement. Design: Proxy communication to host, so that communications are terminated at the proxy, sanitizing the requests before forwarding to server host. Design: Run server interfaces with a non-root account and/or utilize chroot jails or other configuration techniques to constrain privileges even if attacker gains some limited access to commands. 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. Implementation: Perform input validation for all remote content, including remote and user-generated content. Implementation: Perform testing such as pen-testing and vulnerability scanning to identify directories, programs, and interfaces that grant direct access to executables. Implementation: Use indirect references rather than actual file names. Implementation: Use possible permissions on file access when developing and deploying web applications. Implementation: Validate user input by only accepting known good. Ensure all content that is delivered to client is sanitized against an acceptable content specification -- using an allowlist approach.
Related Weaknesses
CWE ID Description
CWE-22 Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal')
Related CAPECS
CAPEC ID Description
CAPEC-153 An attacker exploits a weakness in input validation by controlling the format, structure, and composition of data to an input-processing interface. By supplying input of a non-standard or unexpected form an attacker can adversely impact the security of the target.
CAPEC-664 An adversary exploits improper input validation by submitting maliciously crafted input to a target application running on a server, with the goal of forcing the server to make a request either to itself, to web services running in the server’s internal network, or to external third parties. If successful, the adversary’s request will be made with the server’s privilege level, bypassing its authentication controls. This ultimately allows the adversary to access sensitive data, execute commands on the server’s network, and make external requests with the stolen identity of the server. Server Side Request Forgery attacks differ from Cross Site Request Forgery attacks in that they target the server itself, whereas CSRF attacks exploit an insecure user authentication mechanism to perform unauthorized actions on the user's behalf.
Taxonomy: WASC
Entry ID Entry Name
33 Path Traversal
Taxonomy: OWASP Attacks
Entry ID Entry Name
Link Path Traversal