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Security tips

The Apache Struts 2 doesn’t provide any security mechanism - it is just a pure web framework. Below are few tips you should consider during application development with the Apache Struts 2.

Restrict access to the Config Browser Plugin

Config Browser Plugin exposes internal configuration and should be used only during development phase. If you must use it on production site, we strictly recommend restricting access to it - you can use
Basic Authentication or any other security mechanism (e.g. Apache Shiro)

Don’t mix different access levels in the same namespace

Very often access to different resources is controlled based on URL patterns, see snippet below. Because of that you cannot mix actions with different security levels in the same namespace. Always group actions in one namespace by security level.


Never expose JSP files directly

You must always hide JSP file behind an action, you cannot allow for direct access to the JSP files as this can leads to unpredictable security vulnerabilities. You can achieve this by putting all your JSP files under the WEB-INF folder

<!-- Restricts access to pure JSP files - access available only via Struts action -->
    <display-name>No direct JSP access</display-name>

    <description>Don't assign users to this role</description>

The best approach is to used the both solutions.

Disable devMode

The devMode is a very useful option during development time, allowing for deep introspection and debugging into you app.

However, in production it exposes your application to be presenting too many informations on application’s internals or to evaluating risky parameter expressions. Please always disable devMode before deploying your application to a production environment. While it is disabled by default, your struts.xml might include a line setting it to true. The best way is to ensure the following setting is applied to our struts.xml for production deployment:

<constant name ="struts.devMode" value="false" />

Reduce logging level

It’s a good practice to reduce logging level from DEBUG to INFO or less. Framework’s classes can produce a lot of logging entries which will pollute the log file. You can even set logging level to WARN for classes that belongs to the framework, see example Log4j2 configuration:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
        <Console name="STDOUT" target="SYSTEM_OUT">
            <PatternLayout pattern="%d %-5p [%t] %C{2} (%F:%L) - %m%n"/>
        <Logger name="com.opensymphony.xwork2" level="warn"/>
        <Logger name="org.apache.struts2" level="warn"/>
        <Root level="info">
            <AppenderRef ref="STDOUT"/>

Use UTF-8 encoding

Always use UTF-8 encoding when building an application with the Apache Struts 2, when using JSPs please add the following header to each JSP file

<%@ page contentType="text/html; charset=UTF-8" %>

Do not define setters when not needed

You should carefully design your actions without exposing anything via setters and getters, thus can leads to potential security vulnerabilities. Any action’s setter can be used to set incoming untrusted user’s value which can contain suspicious expression. Some Struts Results automatically populate params based on values in ValueStack (action in most cases is the root) which means incoming value will be evaluated as an expression during this process.

Do not use incoming values as an input for localisation logic

All TextProvider’s getText(...) methods (e.g. inActionSupport) perform evaluation of parameters included in a message to properly localize the text. This means using incoming request parameters with getText(...) methods is potentially dangerous and should be avoided. See example below, assuming that an action implements getter and setter for property message, the below code allows inject an OGNL expression:

public String execute() throws Exception {
    message = getText(getMessage());
    return SUCCESS;

Never use value of incoming request parameter as part of your localization logic.

Do not use incoming, untrusted user input in forced expression evaluation

You can use a forced expression evalaution in many tags’ attributes by using %{...} syntax. This is a very powerful option but used with wrong data can lead to the Remote Code Execution. Never use forced expression evalaution if you didn’t verify the input or it can be passed in by a user.

Never use value of incoming request parameter as input for forced expression evalaution.

Use Struts tags instead of raw EL expressions

JSP EL doesn’t perform any kind of escaping, you must perform this using a dedicated function, see this example. Never use a raw ${} EL expression on incoming values as this can lead to injecting a malicious code into the page.

The safest option is to use Struts Tags instead.

Define custom error pages

As mentioned in S2-006 it’s a good practicse to define your own error pages. This avoids exposing users to XSS attacks as Struts does not escape action’s names in automatically generated error pages.

You can eaither disable DMI

<constant name="struts.enable.DynamicMethodInvocation" value="false" />

or define an error page

  <result name="error">/error_page.jsp</result>
  <exception-mapping exception="java.lang.Exception" result="error"/>

Proactively protect from OGNL Expression Injections attacks if easily applicable

The framework has a history of critical security bugs, many tied to its use of OGNL technology; Due to its ability to create or change executable code, OGNL is capable of introducing critical security flaws to any framework that uses it. Multiple Struts 2 versions have been vulnerable to OGNL security flaws. Consequently, we’ve equipped OGNL and the framework with following proactive optional possibilities since OGNL 3.1.24 and Struts 2.5.22. They’re disabled by default but via enabling them, you can proactively protect from potential still unknown OGNL Expression Injections flaws:

NOTE: These might break your current app functionality. Before using in production environment, you’re recommended to comprehensively test your app UI and functionalities with these enabled.

Run OGNL expressions inside sandbox

You can do this simply via adding to JVM arguments. OGNL thereupon utilizes Java Security Manager to run OGNL expressions (which includes your actions either!) inside a sandbox with no permission. It is worth noting that it affects only OGNL expression execution and thereafter OGNL reverts Java Security Manager to its previous state.

Apply a maximum allowed length on OGNL expressions

You can enable this via Struts configuration key struts.ognl.expressionMaxLength. OGNL thereupon doesn’t evaluate any expression longer than specified value. You would choose a value large enough to permit ALL valid OGNL expressions used within the application. Values larger than the 200-400 range have diminishing security value (at which point it is really only a “style guard” for long OGNL expressions in an application).

Internal security mechanism

The Apache Struts 2 contains internal security manager which blocks access to particular classes and Java packages - it’s a OGNL-wide mechanism which means it affects any aspect of the framework ie. incoming parameters, expressions used in JSPs, etc. Matching is done based on both the target and member class of an OGNL expression.

There are 4 options that can be used to configure excluded packages and classes:

The defaults are defined here.

Any expression or target which evaluates to one of these will be blocked and you see a WARN in logs:

[WARNING] Target class [class example.MyBean] or declaring class of member type [public example.MyBean()] are excluded!

In that case new MyBean() was used to create a new instance of class (inside JSP) - it’s blocked because target of such expression is evaluated to java.lang.Class

It is possible to redefine the above constants in struts.xml but try to avoid this and rather change design of your application!

Accessing static methods

Support for accessing static methods from expression will be disabled soon, please consider re-factoring your application to avoid further problems! Please check WW-4348.

OGNL is used to call action’s methods

This can impact actions which have large inheritance hierarchy and use the same method’s name throughout the hierarchy, this was reported as an issue WW-4405. See the example below:

public class RealAction extends BaseAction {  
    public String save() throws Exception {;
        return SUCCESS;

public class BaseAction extends AbstractAction {
    public String save() throws Exception {
        return SUCCESS;

public abstract class AbstractAction extends ActionSupport {
    protected void save(Double val) {
        // some logic

In such case OGNL cannot properly map which method to call when request is coming. This is do the OGNL limitation. To solve the problem don’t use the same method’s names through the hierarchy, you can simply change the action’s method from save() to saveAction() and leaving annotation as is to allow call this action via /save.action request.

Accepted / Excluded patterns

As from version 2.3.20 the framework provides two new interfaces which are used to accept / exclude param names and values - AcceptedPatternsChecker and ExcludedPatternsChecker with default implementations. These two interfaces are used by Parameters Interceptor and Cookie Interceptor to check if param can be accepted or must be excluded. If you were using excludeParams previously please compare patterns used by you with these provided by the framework in default implementation.

Strict Method Invocation

This mechanism was introduced in version 2.5. It allows control what methods can be accessed with the bang “!” operator via Dynamic Method Invocation. Please read more in the Strict Method Invocation section of Action Configuration.

Resource Isolation Using Fetch Metadata

Note: since Struts 6.0.0

Fetch Metadata is a mitigation against common cross origin attacks such as Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF). It is a web platform security feature designed to help servers defend themselves against cross-origin attacks based on the preferred resource isolation policy. The browser provides information about the context of an HTTP request in a set of Sec-Fetch-* headers. This allows the server processing the request to make decisions on whether the request should be accepted or rejected based on the available resource isolation policies.

A Resource Isolation Policy prevents the resources on a server from being requested by external websites. This policy can be enabled for all endpoints of the application or the endpoints that are meant to be loaded in a cross-site context can be exempted from applying the policy. Read more about Fetch Metadata and resource isolation here.

This mechanism is implemented in Struts using the FetchMetadata Interceptor. Refer to the documentation for FetchMetadata Interceptor instructions on how to enable Fetch Metadata.

Cross Origin Isolation with COOP and COEP

Note: since Struts 6.0.0

Cross-Origin Opener Policy is a security mitigation that lets developers isolate their resources against side-channel attacks and information leaks. The COOP response header allows a document to request a new browsing context group to better isolate itself from other untrustworthy origins.

Cross-Origin Embedder Policy prevents a document from loading any cross-origin resources which don’t explicitly grant the document permission to be loaded.

COOP and COEP are independent mechanisms that can be enabled, tested and deployed separately. While enabling one doesn’t require developers to enable the other, when set together COOP and COEP allows developers to use powerful features (such as SharedArrayBuffer, performance.measureMemory() and the JS Self-Profiling API) securely, without worrying about side channel attacks like Spectre. Further reading on COOP/COEP and why you need cross-origin isolation.

The recommended configuration for the policies are:

Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy: require-corp;
Cross-Origin-Opener-Policy: same-origin;

COOP and COEP are implemented in Struts using CoopInterceptor and CoepInterceptor.