CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

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ID

CWE-917: Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an Expression Language Statement ('Expression Language Injection')

Weakness ID: 917
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software constructs all or part of an expression language (EL) statement in a framework such as a Java Server Page (JSP) using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended EL statement before it is executed.
+ Extended Description
Frameworks such as Java Server Page (JSP) allow a developer to insert executable expressions within otherwise-static content. When the developer is not aware of the executable nature of these expressions and/or does not disable them, then if an attacker can inject expressions, this could lead to code execution or other unexpected behaviors.
+ Alternate Terms
EL Injection
+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.77Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection')
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1336Improper Neutralization of Special Elements Used in a Template Engine
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.137Data Neutralization Issues
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Quality Measures (2020)" (CWE-1305)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.77Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection')
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Data Protection Measures" (CWE-1340)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.77Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection')
+ Modes Of Introduction
Section HelpThe different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.
PhaseNote
Architecture and Design
Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms
Section HelpThis listing shows possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.

Languages

Java (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences
Section HelpThis table specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. 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 weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
ScopeImpactLikelihood
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Application Data

Integrity

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Product does not neutralize ${xyz} style expressions, allowing remote code execution. (log4shell vulnerability in log4j)
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Avoid adding user-controlled data into an expression interpreter when possible.

Phase: Implementation

If user-controlled data must be added to an expression interpreter, one or more of the following should be performed:

  • Validate that the user input will not evaluate as an expression
  • Encode the user input in a way that ensures it is not evaluated as an expression

Phases: System Configuration; Operation

The framework or tooling might allow the developer to disable or deactivate the processing of EL expressions, such as setting the isELIgnored attribute for a JSP page to "true".
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Memberships
Section HelpThis MemberOf Relationships table shows additional CWE Categories and Views that reference this weakness as a member. This information is often useful in understanding where a weakness fits within the context of external information sources.
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1027OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1347OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A03:2021 - Injection
+ Notes

Maintenance

The interrelationships and differences between CWE-917 and CWE-1336 need to be further clarified.

Relationship

In certain versions of Spring 3.0.5 and earlier, there was a vulnerability (CVE-2011-2730) in which Expression Language tags would be evaluated twice, which effectively exposed any application to EL injection. However, even for later versions, this weakness is still possible depending on configuration.
+ References
[REF-911] Stefano Di Paola and Arshan Dabirsiaghi. "Expression Language Injection". 2011-09-12. <http://www.mindedsecurity.com/fileshare/ExpressionLanguageInjection.pdf>.
[REF-912] Dan Amodio. "Remote Code with Expression Language Injection". 2012-12-14. <http://danamodio.com/application-security/discoveries/spring-remote-code-with-expression-language-injection/>.
[REF-1279] CWE/CAPEC. "Neutralizing Your Inputs: A Log4Shell Weakness Story". <https://medium.com/@CWE_CAPEC/neutralizing-your-inputs-a-log4shell-weakness-story-89954c8b25c9>.
[REF-1280] OWASP. "Expression Language Injection". <https://owasp.org/www-community/vulnerabilities/Expression_Language_Injection>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2013-02-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
+ Contributions
Contribution DateContributorOrganization
2013-02-15Dan Amodio, Dave WichersAspect Security
Suggested adding this weakness and provided references.
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2021-07-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2022-06-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Maintenance_Notes, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
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Page Last Updated: June 28, 2022