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XPath injection

(also XPath injection attack)

XPath injection definition

An XPath injection is a cyberattack that involves manipulating an application’s XPath (XML path) queries without proper input validation or sanitization. Hackers can deliberately design input that allows them unauthorized access to the system, exposes data, or opens up additional avenues for attack.

See also: code injection, command injection, PHP injection, SQL injection, cyberattack, least privilege, input validation attack

Types of XPath injection

  • Boolean-based: The attacker provides input that the system must return as either true or false, using the responses to understand the underlying XML structure or conditionally control the application's behavior.
  • Union-based: The attacker uses the UNION operator to merge the result of the XPath query with an injected query, potentially extracting sensitive data.
  • Error-based: Injecting code deliberately designed to generate XPath errors can reveal information about the application's internal structure for further attacks.
  • Time-based: The attacker may inject delays or add time-consuming operations to the XPath query to infer information about the system based on the response time.

Stopping XPath injection attacks

  • Implement input validation and sanitization for XPath queries to protect the system against malicious characters or patterns.
  • Use parameterized XPath queries to make sure that user input is properly separated from the query logic.
  • Employ the principle of least privilege — limit app access rights to prevent privilege escalation and limit the consequences of a successful XPath injection attack.
  • Perform regular security assessments to identify and address any XPath injection vulnerabilities in applications.