I'm performing a static analysis on a PHP code and came across this situation:

include_once SYSTEM_PATH . 'languages/content-' . $_COOKIE ['lang'] . '.php';

If I try to hack with this HTTP request:

GET /en-us HTTP/1.1
Host: xxxx.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:32.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/32.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Language: pt-BR,pt;q=0.8,en-US;q=0.5,en;q=0.3
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../../../anotherfile
Connection: keep-alive

The response is this:

include_once(/export/htdocs/xxxx.com/base/languages/content-eng.php/../../../anotherfile.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory

The file languages/content-eng.php exists on the server.
The file languages/../../../anotherfile.php exists on the server too (I have access to the file system).

Is there any way to exploit this vulnerability through lang cookie?

  • 1
    Unless you have a subfolder with name beginning with content- in the languages directory, there is no way for such traversal to work. In your particular case, content-eng.php/ needs to be a folder, not a file. Oct 23, 2014 at 1:45
  • @QuestionOverflow Yes you're right. Thanks to point that out.
    – jyz
    Oct 23, 2014 at 10:33

3 Answers 3


Sigh. Here is the reasoning for me posting a link in lieu of a long answer. Original post wants to inject/disaffect/exploit through the lang variable in cookie:

GET /en-us HTTP/1.1
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../../../anotherfile

He then states he tried and failed:

include_once(/export/htdocs/xxxx.com/base/languages/content-eng.php/../../../anotherfile.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory

"No such file or directory" to me means one of a few things:

1) His directory traversal is off:


If the structure is exactly as above, there is no directory traversal vulnerability period.

2) eng.php is not detailed enough to know what it does. This would have to be the vulnerable weak link on the chain

He is relying on an error, thinking: "Oh well I have an error, I am headed on the right track"

OP: You could fiddle with the directories a bit more. It is telling you "I can't find this file" the issue becomes "what are you finding" if you state you have access to the machine, the solution I would use would be to place tokens in folders to determine where you are landing:


Then try another POST/GET perhaps:

Cookie: xxx=eng.php/token1
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/token2
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/token3

Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../token1
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../token2
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../token3

Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../../token1
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../../token2
Cookie: xxx=eng.php/../../token3

Just because you got an error, does not mean directory traversal is present. For all you know it's is a global error you are getting. The initial link I sent was to guide you on a "known known" (variable you control) lang.


OP: "The base is /export/htdocs/yyy.com/base/. The anotherfile.php is in /export/htdocs/xxx.com/anotherfile.php"

Unless I am misinterpreting this:



Are these on separate sites? If xxx.com is your own server/test machine, I'm under the impression you're trying an LFI exploit:

you --> modify cookie (hey, take this anotherfile.php from my machine) --> yyy.com

Again, the reasoning for my initially posting a link in lieu of an answer. If you meant the other way around (typo):



Then you need to modify your insertion to ../../anotherfile or move another file into:


  • Yeah I think you hit the point on 1. I mean, localy on the fs I can't do this: ls -l /export/htdocs/xxx.com/base/languages/content-en-us.php/../../../anotherfile.php This means that traversal is off?
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 15:52
  • It would help to know where your "anotherfile.php" is located. Hence me posting about token1, token2. The key with this is to find out where you are landing.
    – munkeyoto
    Oct 22, 2014 at 15:57
  • The base is /export/htdocs/yyy.com/base/. The anotherfile.php is in /export/htdocs/xxx.com/anotherfile.php
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:22
  • "His directory traversal is off" - how do you disable directory traversal?
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:38

You can't read PHP code with an include() or require() because these functions evaluate the PHP code within a file. If you can control the beginning part of the string passed to include() or require() then you can use a php://filter to read php files, but this attack pattern does not apply for this bug.

In order to get a shell with this LFI vulnerability, you need a have a backdoor on the target with a .php extension. Ideally this would be done using another vulnerability like file upload. NULL byte injection doesn't work on modern versions of PHP's fileio functions, so you are stuck with the .php extension.

Another attack pattern is to include existing .php files to expose existing application functionality in an unintended way.

  • I'm not interested on uploading a file to get a shell because this vulnerability does not allow that. I cannot inject code, just read a PHP file, as you mentioned.
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 15:55
  • @jyzuz you will never be able to read PHP code with an LFI, the whole point of the include() function is to execute the PHP code. If your smart, you can get a shell.
    – rook
    Oct 22, 2014 at 15:59
  • @jyzuz if one flaw doesn't give you everything, then you need to find another vulnerability that gives you what you need. We call these exploit chains.
    – rook
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:05
  • I know I can't "read" a PHP file. It would exe the PHP code, for me that's enough.
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:21
  • 1
    @programings Thanks to poin that out. But if you carefuly look at the example you control just part of the name. It starts with "content-" + cookie value (user-controlled) + ".php". So you have to somehow escape the filename to access arbitrary files...
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:55

It works perfectly fine for me with eng.php/../../../anotherfile (I'm using PHP 5.5.6-1).

  • Are you sure that anotherfile.php is in the correct directory? Try placing it in the same directory as the lang php files and include it there (just for testing).
  • is it readable by the web server? (for testing, you can just chmod 777 file.php).

Also note that while including PHP files should work, including other files (eg by using null byte) does not work in newer versions of PHP.

  • Yeah, well, problem is that the transversal is not working, even on terminal. Maybe that's the problem?
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:30
  • @jyzuz so even when you are logged in via ssh you cannot for example do this: cat /var/log/../../etc/passwd? That could be a problem, yes.
    – tim
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:36
  • In fact the example would be: cat /etc/issue/../passwd I think that's never possible, what do ou think?
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:39
  • @jyzuz you are right, cat /etc/nonexisting/../passwd does not work in bash. lang=nonexisting/../../echo on the other hand works (at least for me, with your example code andecho.php being in the same directory as the file containing that code).
    – tim
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:49
  • Well that didn't work out for me. It doesn't matter if it exists or not, same directory or not. It simply doesn't allow me to point to a file and them transverse it...
    – jyz
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:58

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