CWE 78 - OS Command Injection

OS Command Injection occurs when an application fails to properly validate user-supplied input, leading to the execution of arbitrary commands within the operating system. The significance of this vulnerability lies in its potential impact, as attackers can leverage OS shell access and potentially gain root privileges, opening the door to unauthorized access and manipulation of critical resources.

There are several CVEs related to CWE 78 such as:

1. CVE-2020-10987

Attackers can remotely execute any system commands in Tenda AC15 AC1900 version through the goform/setUsbUnload endpoint by tweaking the deviceName parameter in a POST request.

2. CVE-2001-1246

Language interpreter's mail function is at risk of OS Command Injection (CWE-78) and Argument Injection (CWE-88) due to  unneutralized concatenated arguments in dangerous popen() calls.

In this post, we will delve into the intricacies of CWE 78 - OS Command Injection, exploring the risks associated with this vulnerability and the potential consequences for organizations. We will examine how attackers can exploit this weakness to execute malicious commands within the operating system, compromising the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of sensitive information and critical services.


Further, we will shed light on effective mitigation strategies to safeguard against OS Command Injection. By understanding the risks, adopting secure coding practices, implementing input validation mechanisms, and embracing continuous monitoring, we can bolster our defenses and significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to this critical vulnerability.

Learn more about Injection-type attacks: Understanding OWASP Top 10: Injection

Mitigation Strategies Against CWE 73

CCWE-78, or OS Command Injection, presents serious risks to system security. It enables attackers to inject malicious commands into vulnerable applications, leading to remote code execution and unauthorized access to the underlying operating system. This can result in system compromise, data loss or corruption, and potential violations of regulatory requirements. By exploiting command injection vulnerabilities, attackers can execute arbitrary code, gain administrative control, and manipulate or exfiltrate sensitive data, posing significant threats to the integrity and confidentiality of the affected systems.

Good Read: Biggest Threat to Application Security: SQL Injection Attacks

Some of the most common remediation strategies are listed below

  • Sandboxing

Sandboxing involves the implementation of technologies like the Unix chroot jail or AppArmor, which create a restricted environment for executing applications. By confining the execution to a specific directory, the potential impact of directory traversal attacks is confined to that limited space. This approach helps mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive files outside the designated boundaries. For further insights on enhancing mobile app security through sandboxing and isolation, we recommend reading the resource "Enhancing Mobile App Security through Sandboxing & Isolation."

  • Using Secure APIs

Using secure APIs is crucial in mitigating against CWE-78 (OS Command Injection) vulnerabilities. Secure APIs enforce proper input validation and sanitization techniques, ensuring that user-supplied data is thoroughly validated before being used in operating system commands. By implementing secure APIs, developers can prevent malicious input from being executed as commands, significantly reducing the risk of command injection attacks. Secure APIs also provide additional security features such as access control, authentication, and encryption, further strengthening the overall security posture of the system.

Read: Why is API security important?

  • Reducing Attack Surface

It is essential to minimize the amount of data that can be externally controlled and used to generate executable commands. In web applications, this can be achieved by storing sensitive data within the session's state rather than sending it to the client in a hidden form field. By keeping the data under local control, the risk of manipulation by malicious users is reduced, preventing potential command injection attacks. This approach helps maintain the integrity and security of the application by limiting the exposure of critical data to external manipulation.

  • Testing

In the end, conducting manual analysis such as Penetration Tests is crucial. Testers assume the perspective of potential threat actors, identifying vulnerabilities and assessing their level of risk. The insights gained from successful ethical hacking can then be utilized to develop an efficient automated filtering system that allows only benign requests, effectively protecting your software or website against CWE-73.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the severity of OS command injection?

OS command injection is a critical security vulnerability with severity ranging from high to critical. The CVSS score assigned to OS command injection vulnerabilities can range from 8.8 to 9.9, reflecting the significant risk and potential impact associated with these vulnerabilities.

What is the impact of OS command injection?

OS command injection can result in unauthorized code execution and potential data breaches, allowing attackers to gain control over systems, execute malicious commands, and access sensitive information.

How is OS Command injection different from code injection?

OS command injection involves exploiting vulnerabilities in an application to execute unauthorized operating system commands, while code injection refers to the injection of malicious code into an application's codebase. OS command injection focuses on manipulating system-level commands, while code injection targets the application's logic and functionality.

How to prevent OS command injection?

To prevent OS command injection, regular security testing and code reviews by industry experts can help identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. In addition, always validate and sanitize user input, use parameterized queries or prepared statements for database operations, and implement proper input validation and filtering techniques to reject any unexpected or malicious input.


In conclusion, understanding the risks associated with CWE-78, OS Command Injection, is essential for maintaining strong cybersecurity practices. This vulnerability poses significant threats, allowing attackers to execute arbitrary commands and potentially gain unauthorized access to critical systems. 

However, by implementing robust mitigation strategies, such as input validation, secure coding practices, and proper handling of user-supplied data, organizations can greatly reduce the risk of OS Command Injection attacks. 

It is imperative to prioritize security measures, stay informed about emerging threats, and regularly update software to ensure a resilient defense against CWE-78 and other related vulnerabilities. By proactively addressing OS Command Injection risks, organizations can safeguard their systems, protect sensitive data, and maintain the trust of their stakeholders.

Rest assured, Appknox is the industry-leading security platform that can help you effectively address CWE-73 and various other vulnerabilities. With our powerful plug-and-play platform, we prioritize your software's security by conducting thorough tests and delivering comprehensive insights. Don't hesitate to connect with us and discover how Appknox can enhance your software's security.