CodeQL documentation

Regular expression injection

ID: cs/regex-injection
Kind: path-problem
Security severity: 7.5
Severity: error
Precision: high
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-730
   - external/cwe/cwe-400
Query suites:
   - csharp-code-scanning.qls
   - csharp-security-extended.qls
   - csharp-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

Constructing a regular expression with unsanitized user input is dangerous as a malicious user may be able to modify the meaning of the expression. In particular, such a user may be able to provide a regular expression fragment that takes exponential time in the worst case, and use that to perform a Denial of Service attack.


For user input that is intended to be referenced as a string literal in a regular expression, use the Regex.Escape method to escape any special characters. If the regular expression is intended to be configurable by the user, then a timeout should be used to avoid Denial of Service attacks. For C# applications, a timeout can be provided to the Regex constructor. Alternatively, apply a global timeout by setting the REGEX_DEFAULT_MATCH_TIMEOUT application domain property, using the AppDomain.SetData method.


The following example shows a HTTP request parameter that is used as a regular expression, and matched against another request parameter.

In the first case, the regular expression is used without a timeout, and the user-provided regex is not escaped. If a malicious user provides a regex that has exponential worst case performance, then this could lead to a Denial of Service.

In the second case, the user input is escaped using Regex.Escape before being included in the regular expression. This ensures that the user cannot insert characters which have a special meaning in regular expressions.

using System;
using System.Web;
using System.Text.RegularExpressions;

public class RegexInjectionHandler : IHttpHandler

    public void ProcessRequest(HttpContext ctx)
        string name = ctx.Request.QueryString["name"];
        string userInput = ctx.Request.QueryString["userInput"];

        // BAD: Unsanitized user input is used to construct a regular expression
        new Regex("^" + name + "=.*$").Match(userInput);

        // GOOD: User input is sanitized before constructing the regex
        string safeName = Regex.Escape(name);
        new Regex("^" + safeName + "=.*$").Match(userInput);


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