CVE-2017-5638: Apache Struts 2 Vulnerability Leads to Remote Code Execution

Apache Struts is a free and open-source framework used to build Java web applications. We looked into past several Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerabilities reported in Apache Struts, and observed that in most of them, attackers have used Object Graph Navigation Language (OGNL) expressions. The use of OGNL makes it easy to execute arbitrary code remotely because Apache Struts uses it for most of its processes.

Using OGNL, a researcher found a new remote code execution vulnerability in Apache Struts 2, designated as CVE-2017-5638. An exploit has been reported to be already in the wild; our own research and monitoring have also seen attacks using the vulnerability.

Attack Scenario

This particular vulnerability can be exploited if the attacker sends a crafted request to upload a file to a vulnerable server that uses a Jakarta-based plugin to process the upload request.

The attacker can then send malicious code in the Content-Type header to execute the command on a vulnerable server. A proof of concept that demonstrates the attack scenario is publicly available.

Vulnerability Dissection

We took a closer look at the patch to further understand the vulnerability and found that the vendor removed the usage of Class “LocalizedTextUtil” from This was meant to give an error message to the user if the file upload, using multipart HTTP request, is not successful.

Figure 1: Patch diff code snapshot

To provide an appropriate error message to the user, it used the function “findText” defined in LocalizedTextUtil to parse the error key message and get the defined error message for it.

Figure 2: Defined error messages in Apache Struts’ File Upload function

The findText function definition is:

public static String findText(Class aClass, String aTextName,
Locale locale, String defaultMessage, Object[] args )

This function finds a locally saved text message for the given error key passed in variable “aTextName”. The parameters are:

aClass: FileUploadInterceptor passes the error class to use as the start point of the error message search

aTextName: the error key used to find the error message for it

Locale: the locale where the message is saved for the respective error key

defaultMessage: the message to be returned if no text message can be found in any resource bundle

args: the error arguments’ resource bundle

If the message is found, those will be treated as an OGNL expression and evaluated as such. So, if an attacker passes the OGNL expression in Content-Type header with “multipart/form-data”, it will be evaluated and could help the attacker to execute arbitrary code remotely.

To fix this issue, the vendor has removed the usage of class “LocalizedTextUtil”, along with “”, which can be used to output the RCE result to the attacker.

Apache Struts versions Struts 2.3.5 – Struts 2.3.31, Struts 2.5 – Struts 2.5.10 are reported to be affected. If you are using the Jakarta-based file upload Multipart parser, upgrading to Apache Struts version 2.3.32 or is recommended. You can also switch to a different implementation of the Multipart parser.

Trend Micro Solutions 

Trend Micro™ Deep Security™ and Vulnerability Protection provide virtual patching that protects endpoints from threats that exploit vulnerabilities. OfficeScan’s Vulnerability Protection shields endpoints from identified and unknown vulnerability exploits even before patches are even deployed. Trend Micro™ Deep Discovery™ provides detection, in-depth analysis, and proactive response to attacks using exploits and other similar threats through specialized engines, custom sandboxing, and seamless correlation across the entire attack lifecycle, allowing it to detect these kinds of attacks even without any engine or pattern update.

Deep Security™ provides protection from any threats that may target this vulnerability via the following DPI rule:

  • 1008207 – Apache Struts2 Remote Code Execution Vulnerability (CVE-2017-5638)

Deep Discovery Inspector protects customers from this threat via this DDI Rule:

  • Beta Rule ID: 3421 – CVE-2017-5638_HTTP_APACHESTRUTS_EXPLOIT

TippingPoint customers are protected from this threat via these Custom Shield Writer (CSW) and MainlineDV filters:

  • CSW: HTTP: Apache Struts Content-type Command Injection Vulnerability (CVE-2017-5638)
  • 27410: HTTP: Apache Struts Content-type Command Injection Vulnerability (CVE-2017-5638)

Post from: Trendlabs Security Intelligence Blog – by Trend Micro

CVE-2017-5638: Apache Struts 2 Vulnerability Leads to Remote Code Execution

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Story added 9. March 2017, content source with full text you can find at link above.