Python’s interfaces for processing XML are grouped in the
The XML modules are not secure against erroneous or maliciously constructed data. If you need to parse untrusted or unauthenticated data see XML vulnerabilities.
It is important to note that modules in the
xml package require that
there be at least one SAX-compliant XML parser available. The Expat parser is
included with Python, so the
xml.parsers.expat module will always be
The XML handling submodules are:
xml.etree.ElementTree: the ElementTree API, a simple and lightweight XML processor
xml.dom: the DOM API definition
xml.dom.minidom: a minimal DOM implementation
xml.dom.pulldom: support for building partial DOM trees
19.6. XML vulnerabilities¶
The XML processing modules are not secure against maliciously constructed data. An attacker can abuse vulnerabilities for e.g. denial of service attacks, to access local files, to generate network connections to other machines, or to or circumvent firewalls. The attacks on XML abuse unfamiliar features like inline DTD (document type definition) with entities.
The following table gives an overview of the known attacks and if the various modules are vulnerable to them.
|external entity expansion||Vulnerable||Safe (1)||Safe (2)||Vulnerable||Safe (3)|
xml.etree.ElementTreedoesn’t expand external entities and raises a ParserError when an entity occurs.
xml.dom.minidomdoesn’t expand external entities and simply returns the unexpanded entity verbatim.
xmlrpclibdoesn’t expand external entities and omits them.
- billion laughs / exponential entity expansion
- The Billion Laughs attack – also known as exponential entity expansion – uses multiple levels of nested entities. Each entity refers to another entity several times, the final entity definition contains a small string. Eventually the small string is expanded to several gigabytes. The exponential expansion consumes lots of CPU time, too.
- quadratic blowup entity expansion
- A quadratic blowup attack is similar to a Billion Laughs attack; it abuses entity expansion, too. Instead of nested entities it repeats one large entity with a couple of thousand chars over and over again. The attack isn’t as efficient as the exponential case but it avoids triggering countermeasures of parsers against heavily nested entities.
- external entity expansion
- Entity declarations can contain more than just text for replacement. They can also point to external resources by public identifiers or system identifiers. System identifiers are standard URIs or can refer to local files. The XML parser retrieves the resource with e.g. HTTP or FTP requests and embeds the content into the XML document.
- DTD retrieval
- Some XML libraries like Python’s
xml.dom.pulldomretrieve document type definitions from remote or local locations. The feature has similar implications as the external entity expansion issue.
- decompression bomb
- The issue of decompression bombs (aka ZIP bomb) apply to all XML libraries that can parse compressed XML stream like gzipped HTTP streams or LZMA-ed files. For an attacker it can reduce the amount of transmitted data by three magnitudes or more.
The documentation of defusedxml on PyPI has further information about all known attack vectors with examples and references.
19.6.1. defused packages¶
These external packages are recommended for any code that parses untrusted XML data.
defusedxml is a pure Python package with modified subclasses of all stdlib XML parsers that prevent any potentially malicious operation. The package also ships with example exploits and extended documentation on more XML exploits like xpath injection.
defusedexpat provides a modified libexpat and patched replacement
pyexpat extension module with countermeasures against entity expansion
DoS attacks. Defusedexpat still allows a sane and configurable amount of entity
expansions. The modifications will be merged into future releases of Python.
The workarounds and modifications are not included in patch releases as they break backward compatibility. After all inline DTD and entity expansion are well-defined XML features.