CodeQL documentation

OGNL Expression Language statement with user-controlled input

ID: java/ognl-injection
Kind: path-problem
Severity: error
Precision: high
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-917
Query suites:
   - java-code-scanning.qls
   - java-security-extended.qls
   - java-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

Object-Graph Navigation Language (OGNL) is an open-source Expression Language (EL) for Java. OGNL can create or change executable code, consequently it can introduce critical security flaws to any application that uses it. Evaluation of unvalidated expressions is a common flaw in OGNL. This exposes the properties of Java objects to modification by an attacker and may allow them to execute arbitrary code.


The general recommendation is to avoid evaluating untrusted ONGL expressions. If user-provided OGNL expressions must be evaluated, do this in a sandbox and validate the expressions before evaluation.


In the following examples, the code accepts an OGNL expression from the user and evaluates it.

In the first example, the user-provided OGNL expression is parsed and evaluated.

The second example validates the expression and evaluates it inside a sandbox. You can add a sandbox by setting a system property, as shown in the example, or by adding to JVM arguments.

import ognl.Ognl;
import ognl.OgnlException;

public void evaluate(HttpServletRequest request, Object root) throws OgnlException {
  String expression = request.getParameter("expression");

  // BAD: User provided expression is evaluated
  Ognl.getValue(expression, root);
  // GOOD: The name is validated and expression is evaluated in sandbox
  System.setProperty("", ""); // Or add to JVM args
  if (isValid(expression)) {
    Ognl.getValue(expression, root);
  } else {
    // Reject the request

public void isValid(Strig expression) {
  // Custom method to validate the expression.
  // For instance, make sure it doesn't include unexpected code.


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