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The web development world is constantly on guard against security threats, and a recent discovery in the popular Apache Struts2 framework serves as a stark reminder. This critical vulnerability, known as CVE-2023-50164, exposes a serious flaw that could allow malicious actors to take control of your servers, steal data, and wreak havoc on your systems.

What’s CVE-2023-50164?

CVE-2023-50164 is a critical vulnerability that allows an attacker to manipulate file upload parameters, enabling unauthorized path traversal. This can potentially lead to the uploading of a malicious file, which can then be used to perform remote code execution (RCE). In simple terms, it gives attackers the ability to execute arbitrary code on the server, compromising the security and integrity of the application.

The vulnerability arises from a flaw in the framework’s handling of file upload parameters. By exploiting this flaw, an attacker can navigate through the server’s directory structure and upload a malicious file, leading to RCE.

Vulnerability Details:

The vulnerability resides within the Struts2 file upload mechanism, specifically in the way it handles parameter parsing. A meticulously crafted file upload request can exploit this flaw to bypass intended access controls and achieve unauthorized path traversal. This allows attackers to upload malicious files to arbitrary locations on the server, including potentially sensitive directories. Once uploaded, these malicious files can be executed, granting the attacker full control over the system.

Technical Analysis:

The vulnerability stems from the lack of proper validation and sanitization of user-controlled data in the file upload process. Specifically, the “Content-Disposition” header within the upload request can be manipulated to specify a target path beyond the intended upload directory. This enables attackers to overwrite existing files or upload new ones to unauthorized locations.

Exploitation Scenarios: What’s the Danger?

This vulnerability can be exploited in various ways, depending on the attacker’s goals. Here are some potential scenarios:

Remote Code Execution (RCE): An attacker can upload a web shell script or other malicious payload that, when accessed, executes arbitrary code on the server. This could allow the attacker to steal data, install backdoors, or launch further attacks.

Data Exfiltration: By uploading malicious scripts, attackers can access and exfiltrate sensitive data stored on the server, including user credentials, financial information, and proprietary data.

Denial-of-Service (DoS): Malicious scripts can be uploaded to consume resources and disrupt critical services, potentially leading to denial-of-service attacks.

Impact and Risks:

CVE-2023-50164 poses a significant threat to organizations using vulnerable versions of Apache Struts2. The potential for RCE, data exfiltration, and denial-of-service attacks makes this vulnerability highly critical and requires immediate attention.

Mitigation and Remediation: How to stay safe?

The Apache Struts2 project has released patched versions addressing this vulnerability. Upgrading to one of the following versions is crucial for mitigating the risk:

  • Apache Struts 2.5.33
  • Apache Struts or later

Additional mitigation strategies include:

This upgrade acts as a crucial defense against the vulnerability. However, merely updating the framework is not enough. Organizations should also:

  • Review file upload configurations to ensure that only authorized file types are accepted and file size limits are enforced.
  • Implement a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to detect and block malicious traffic.
  • Regularly update all software, including the Apache Struts framework,to the latest versions.
  • Monitor applications for any suspicious activity indicative of an attack.


CVE-2023-50164 is a serious vulnerability that requires immediate attention from organizations using Apache Struts2. Implementing the mitigation strategies mentioned above is crucial to protect your systems from potential attacks. By staying informed about emerging vulnerabilities and taking proactive measures, organizations can minimize their risk and maintain a secure environment. For more detailed technical information and updates, it is advisable to refer to the official Apache Struts advisories and security resources.

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