Information disclosure vulnerability in Apache Tomcat

by Mark Koek on 22-Feb-2016

On a pentest for a client we discovered a way to obtain information about a web application's internal structure from the network. We reported the issue to the vendor and a fix was released. The following security advisory details the vulnerability and how to resolve it.

CVE reference: CVE-2015-5345
CVSS score: 5.1 (medium)

Affected systems


Because the Apache Tomcat application server responds to HTTP requests for directories with a redirect (appending a trailing slash) if the directory exists in the application's .war file, remote unauthenticated users could detect the presence of an application, and map out the internal structure of the application using a dictionary attack.


The impact of this issue is limited. The presence of a web application can be detected, and the use of Java can be detected even if identifying headers have been disabled (by trying to request the WEB-INF directory). Also, an attacker can determine if a certain string is a valid directory name in the application's .war file.


Upgrade your Apache Tomcat installation to at least version 9.0.0.M3, 8.0.30, 7.0.68 or 6.0.45.

Note that two new configuration directives were introduced in these versions of Apache Tomcat, one to re-enable Tomcat identifying directories (mapperDirectoryRedirectEnabled, off by default), and one to enable the web application presence identifying behaviour (mapperContextRootRedirectEnabled, on by default because switching it off might cause issues with existing web applications).

So to completely solve this issue, update Apache Tomcat and switch off mapperContextRootRedirectEnabled for any web applications that you wish to be undetectable by unauthenticated visitors.

Note (2) that earlier minor versions of Apache 6, 7, and 8 released after October 2015 may also be not vulnerable to this issue as fixes were introduced but re-engineered in the current versions due to regression issues. Update to at least one of the versions listed above to be sure of having the fix as described.

Note (3) that the issue is only fixed for directories that have a <security-constraint> defined for them (such as WEB-INF/). For regular directories the redirection is not disabled.

Technical details

When a request is received for a non-existent resource, Tomcat responds with a response code of 404 as normal. However if there is a directory in the application's .war file corresponding to the requested name, Tomcat responds with a 302 redirect, adding a trailing slash to the request (which only then yields the 404).

For example:

Requested URL HTTP response
http://server/does-not-exist HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
http://server/WEB-INF HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Location: http://server/WEB-INF/
http://server/WEB-INF/ HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found

This works for any directory inside the application's .war file, including things like META-INF or WEB-INF/classes.

Responsible disclosure timeline

12-Oct-2015 reported to the Apache Tomcat Security Team
13-Oct-2015 report acknowledged
21-Oct-2015 confirmed as a low-risk security issue and informed that it would be fixed
19-Nov-2015 CVE assigned and fix committed
Dec-2015 initial updates released for Tomcat 6, 7, 8, and 9. Because a regression occurred for some users the announcement was postponed until new versions were available with the fix as an optional configuration parameter (see above).
08-Feb-2016 Apache Tomcat 9.0.0.M3 released
10-Feb-2016 Apache Tomcat 8.0.32 released
12-Feb-2016 Apache Tomcat 6.0.45 released
18-Feb-2016 Apache Tomcat 7.0.68 released
22-Feb-2016 announcement released, this document published

Vendor advisory

Advisories from other distributors

Feedback welcome!

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