CAPEC-35: Leverage Executable Code in Non-Executable Files

An attack of this type exploits a system's trust in configuration and resource files. When the executable loads the resource (such as an image file or configuration file) the attacker has modified the file to either execute malicious code directly or manipulate the target process (e.g. application server) to execute based on the malicious configuration parameters. Since systems are increasingly interrelated mashing up resources from local and remote sources the possibility of this attack occurring is high.
Extended Description

Malicious user input is injected into various standard and/or user defined HTTP headers within a HTTP Response through use of Carriage Return (CR), Line Feed (LF), Horizontal Tab (HT), Space (SP) characters as well as other valid/RFC compliant special characters, and unique character encoding.

A single HTTP response ends up being split as two or more HTTP responses by the targeted client HTTP agent parsing the original maliciously manipulated HTTP response. This allows malicious HTTP responses to bypass security controls in order to implement malicious actions and provide malicious content that allows access to sensitive data and to compromise applications and users. This is performed by the abuse of interpretation and parsing discrepancies in different intermediary HTTP agents (load balancer, reverse proxy, web caching proxies, application firewalls, etc.) or client HTTP agents (e.g., web browser) in the path of the malicious HTTP responses.

This attack is usually the result of the usage of outdated or incompatible HTTP protocol versions as well as lack of syntax checking and filtering of user input in the HTTP agents receiving HTTP messages in the path.

This differs from CAPEC-105 HTTP Request Splitting, which is usually an attempt to compromise a back-end HTTP agent via HTTP Request messages. HTTP Response Splitting is an attempt to compromise aclient agent (e.g., web browser)by sending malicious content in HTTP responses from back-end HTTP infrastructure.

HTTP Smuggling (CAPEC-33 and CAPEC-273) is different from HTTP Splitting due to the fact it relies upon discrepancies in the interpretation of various HTTP Headers and message sizes and not solely user input of special characters and character encoding. HTTP Smuggling was established to circumvent mitigations against HTTP Request Splitting techniques.

Severity :

Very High

Possibility :


Type :


This table shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern.

  • The attacker must have the ability to modify non-executable files consumed by the target software.
Skills required

This table shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern.

  • Low To identify and execute against an over-privileged system interface
Resources required

Ability to communicate synchronously or asynchronously with server that publishes an over-privileged directory, program, or interface. Optionally, ability to capture output directly through synchronous communication or other method such as FTP.

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Latest DB Update: Jul. 22, 2024 7:44