Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type

The software allows the attacker to upload or transfer files of dangerous types that can be automatically processed within the product's environment.


The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

The following code intends to allow a user to upload a picture to the web server. The HTML code that drives the form on the user end has an input field of type "file".

<form action="upload_picture.php" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">

Choose a file to upload:
<input type="file" name="filename"/>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit"/>


Once submitted, the form above sends the file to upload_picture.php on the web server. PHP stores the file in a temporary location until it is retrieved (or discarded) by the server side code. In this example, the file is moved to a more permanent pictures/ directory.

// Define the target location where the picture being

// uploaded is going to be saved.
$target = "pictures/" . basename($_FILES['uploadedfile']['name']);

// Move the uploaded file to the new location.
if(move_uploaded_file($_FILES['uploadedfile']['tmp_name'], $target))
  echo "The picture has been successfully uploaded.";
  echo "There was an error uploading the picture, please try again.";

The problem with the above code is that there is no check regarding type of file being uploaded. Assuming that pictures/ is available in the web document root, an attacker could upload a file with the name:


Since this filename ends in ".php" it can be executed by the web server. In the contents of this uploaded file, the attacker could use:



Once this file has been installed, the attacker can enter arbitrary commands to execute using a URL such as:


which runs the "ls -l" command - or any other type of command that the attacker wants to specify.

Example Two

The following code demonstrates the unrestricted upload of a file with a Java servlet and a path traversal vulnerability. The action attribute of an HTML form is sending the upload file request to the Java servlet.

<form action="FileUploadServlet" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">

Choose a file to upload:
<input type="file" name="filename"/>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit"/>


When submitted the Java servlet's doPost method will receive the request, extract the name of the file from the Http request header, read the file contents from the request and output the file to the local upload directory.

public class FileUploadServlet extends HttpServlet {


  protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {

    PrintWriter out = response.getWriter();
    String contentType = request.getContentType();

    // the starting position of the boundary header
    int ind = contentType.indexOf("boundary=");
    String boundary = contentType.substring(ind+9);

    String pLine = new String();
    String uploadLocation = new String(UPLOAD_DIRECTORY_STRING); //Constant value

    // verify that content type is multipart form data
    if (contentType != null && contentType.indexOf("multipart/form-data") != -1) {

      // extract the filename from the Http header
      BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(request.getInputStream()));
      pLine = br.readLine();
      String filename = pLine.substring(pLine.lastIndexOf("\\"), pLine.lastIndexOf("\""));

      // output the file to the local upload directory
      try {

        BufferedWriter bw = new BufferedWriter(new FileWriter(uploadLocation+filename, true));
        for (String line; (line=br.readLine())!=null; ) {
          if (line.indexOf(boundary) == -1) {
        } //end of for loop

      } catch (IOException ex) {...}
      // output successful upload response HTML page

    // output unsuccessful upload response HTML page



This code does not perform a check on the type of the file being uploaded (CWE-434). This could allow an attacker to upload any executable file or other file with malicious code.

Additionally, the creation of the BufferedWriter object is subject to relative path traversal (CWE-23). Since the code does not check the filename that is provided in the header, an attacker can use "../" sequences to write to files outside of the intended directory. Depending on the executing environment, the attacker may be able to specify arbitrary files to write to, leading to a wide variety of consequences, from code execution, XSS (CWE-79), or system crash.

See Also

OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A04:2021 - Insecure Design

Weaknesses in this category are related to the A04 "Insecure Design" category in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.

CISQ Quality Measures - Security

Weaknesses in this category are related to the CISQ Quality Measures for Security. Presence of these weaknesses could reduce the security of the software.

CISQ Quality Measures (2016) - Security

Weaknesses in this category are related to the CISQ Quality Measures for Security, as documented in 2016 with the Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM) Specif...

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.

CISQ Data Protection Measures

This view outlines the SMM representation of the Automated Source Code Data Protection Measurement specifications, as identified by the Consortium for Information & So...

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