What Is File Path Traversal And How To Fix

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With the ever growing threat to online security, it is important for developers to find relevant shortcomings in their code. A File path traversal also known as directory traversal is a type of cyber attack carried out over the internet that aims to gain unauthorized access to files saved outside the web. In the light of the recent wake of cyber attacks, it is absolutely essential to have a sound understanding of the vulnerabilities and loopholes on the web. A web directory, basically, is a file where web designers store files relevant to their website. we intend to provide a detailed view of this attack along with some internet security tips that will help in abating the effects.

Backtracking; another commonly used term for file path traversal basically means tricking either the web application or server into granting unauthorized access to files outside the web root folder; by doing this, the attacker may also be able to cause irreparable damage to the server.  Attackers seek to exploit the absence of sufficient security to cause possible havoc.



A file traversal attack can have a devastating impact on an average website require certain configuration files in order to run smoothly, these said files contain information that can help the attacker gain access to more sensitive information like a website’s customer database. The effect can be catastrophic, causing leaks and havoc alike.  A stolen and leaked customer database does not only undermine the security of the website but can cause losses worth thousands of dollars. Another adverse impact of a file path traversal attack is the danger that the attacker might gain complete access to system programs essential for running; deletion of which causes irreparable damage. Other harrowing impacts include the ability to the hacker to weave itself into the system, this, in turn, allows the unauthorized flow of information undetected.


A file path traversal attack is also known as a ../ or a dot dot slash attack. When one seeks to gain access, the ‘..’ directs you to the go one directory. And then a ../ takes you even further. This combination of code directs the hacker to system files. A hacker, via trial and error, can guess how many directories need to be climbed In order to get to the desired files. For example, the scope and impact of the attack can we widened by adding a null byte, this allows the attacker the freedom to shorten generated file names to increase the damage the attack causes.

How to fix/avoid an attack

There are two ways to deal with a breach in security. One of the most important internet security tips is to stay vigilant, and pre-test for loopholes. A beforehand check can be the key to avoiding an attack, this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Run a web vulnerability scanner – this is simply a tool that crawls through a website and automatically checks for susceptibilities. It indicates the vulnerabilities which might serve as possible loopholes that attackers seek to exploit.
  • Use read-only file systems.
  • Use built-in permissions that require authentication
  • Run all systems and modules with the minimum amount of privileges at all times.
  • Absence of use input when using file system cells
  • Surround user with path code, restricting the outflow of information.

These are just some cyber security tips to avoid a breach, in case of a pre-existing attack, solutions include trying to gain access to files by over riding the breach and attempting to regain access by getting attacking the stolen server.

Recent attacks

When recent attacks are discussed, the vulnerabilities in windows server that make it privy to attack are in the spotlight. Windows uses the dot dot slash character sequences which have made it the target of many traversal attacks. Other targets of this attack have been carried out by manipulating WordPress tools, one of the biggest and most recent ones being the attack on the Mosaic Fonseca Servers, more commonly known as the Panama Papers breach. This attack was executed by exploiting a WordPress Revolution Spider plugin and it led to the leak of 11 million confidential documents!


Running a safe and secure server on the internet has become a demanding task with the growing community of hackers and hacktivists, ensuring customer database confidentially has become almost impossible. Programmers use cyber security tips and tools such a grey and black box testing but just one untied end can lead to a leak. However, as hackers grow smart, so do website developers, and cell phone manufacturers as well. You might’ve seen the latest upgrades vendors have now started adding in the user manuals of several phones under the heading of mobile phone security tips. It is a game of chess in this kingdom we call the World Wide Web.

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