6 min readOct 21, 2023
Try Hack Me

Confluence CVE-2023–22515

Exploit CVE-2023–22515 to get admin access to Confluence Server and Data Center editions.


On October 4th, 2023, Atlassian released a security advisory regarding CVE-2023–22515, a broken access control vulnerability, with an assigned CVSS score of 10.0. The vulnerability was introduced in version 8.0.0 of Confluence Server and Data Center editions and is present in versions <8.3.3, <8.4.3, <8.5.2. According to Atlassian, the vulnerability has already been exploited in the wild.

An attacker can exploit the vulnerability to create an additional account in Confluence with full administrative privileges. The attacker needs no prior information to exploit the vulnerability. The vulnerability is believed to enable other unknown attack vectors and should be patched as soon as possible.

Starting the VM

To deploy the attached VM, press the green Start Machine button at the top of the task.

Your VM has a clean trial installation of the Atlassian Confluence Data Center edition running on http://MACHINE_IP:8090, which will serve as our target. The machine may take around 5 minutes to boot up.

Understanding the Vulnerability

Confluence’s Initial Setup

When running Confluence for the first time, you’ll go through the initial setup, which allows you to configure some basic parameters and create an administrative account. The initial setup can be reached by navigating to http://MACHINE_IP:8090/setup/.

If you try to access the initial setup after you have completed it, you won’t be able to go through the setup again but will be greeted with a message stating that the setup process is already complete:

This is normal expected behaviour and would normally not be useful for an attacker at all.

Enter CVE-2023–22515

This vulnerability allows an attacker to reenable the initial setup process. In doing so, the attacker can go through the step of creating a new administrator all over again.

This is all possible because Confluence is built using the Apache Struts framework, which depends on the XWork package. XWork allows you to define Actions in the form of a Java class. Each Action can be invoked through a URL, and the corresponding Java class will handle the request, do whatever the Action requires, and emit a response.

To clarify how Actions work, navigate to http://MACHINE_IP:8090/. You should immediately be redirected to http://MACHINE_IP:8090/login.action. This URL calls an Action bound to a Java class to handle login attempts. When an Action is invoked through its URL, the execute() method of the class will be called by default.

Calling Getters/Setters via XWorks

We can also call getters and setters in Action classes by using a URL specifying an HTTP parameter with the chain of attributes we want to get/set. As an example, if the login Action class had a setId() method, we could invoke it via the following URL:


This would execute setId('123') as defined in the corresponding Action class.

Chaining Getters/Setters to Reenable the Initial Setup

The reported exploit takes advantage of the ServerInfoAction Action. The reason for picking this specific Action is that we can build a chain of getters/setters from it to set the configuration parameter that turns the initial setup on or off.

If you analyse the code of the ServerInfoAction class, you'll see it extends the ConfluenceActionSupport class. By doing so, it will inherit all of its methods as well. One such method is a getter that returns a BootstrapStatusProvider object:

public class ConfluenceActionSupport extends ActionSupport implements LocaleProvider, WebInterface, MessageHolderAware {
public BootstrapStatusProvider getBootstrapStatusProvider() {
if (this.bootstrapStatusProvider == null)
this.bootstrapStatusProvider = BootstrapStatusProviderImpl.getInstance();
return this.bootstrapStatusProvider;

We care about the BootstrapStatusProvider class because it has another getter method we can use to retrieve an ApplicationConfiguration object:

public class BootstrapStatusProviderImpl implements BootstrapStatusProvider, BootstrapManagerInternal {
public ApplicationConfiguration getApplicationConfig() {
return this.delegate.getApplicationConfig();

As you have probably guessed by now, this object contains the application’s configuration, including an attribute that tells Confluence if the initial setup has been finished. Such attribute can be modified by using a setter in the ApplicationConfig class:

public class ApplicationConfig implements ApplicationConfiguration {
public synchronized void setSetupComplete(boolean setupComplete) {
this.setupComplete = setupComplete;

If we call setSetupComplete(false), we will effectively reenable the initial setup. Putting it all together, we can call that chain of getters/setters by accessing the following URL:


This will be effectively translated by XWork into a call to:


Now, go to your browser and navigate to the crafted URL to trigger the vulnerability. You should get the following response from the server:

Creating an Admin Account

Now that we can access the initial setup once again, let’s browse to:


Fill in the details of your new admin user and click next:

If all goes well, you should get access to Confluence with administrative privileges!

In this task, we have gone through a quick explanation of the vulnerability. If you want a more in-depth look at the technical details, check Rapid7 analysis in attackerKB.


Log into Confluence with your new credentials. What is the value of the flag posted by admin?


Automating Exploitation

As we have seen, exploiting the vulnerability is relatively straightforward and can be done manually using a single request and a regular browser. Even so, automated exploits are readily available.

Chocapikk developed one such exploit, which can be downloaded from here. Feel free to download and use the exploit against the target machine!

On the other hand, if you need to test many servers to see if they are vulnerable, a simple vulnerability scanner was developed by ErikWynter. It can be obtained from his GitHub page. Unlike Chocapikk’s script, this one will not exploit the vulnerability but test for it only.


Read Chocapikk’s script. What is the name of the Confluence user it creates?


Detection and Patching


Should you have an instance of a vulnerable version of Confluence, be sure to check for the following:

  • Network access logs pointing to /setup/*.action. There's no reason for a regular user to request such URLs after installation.
  • Network access logs to /server-info.action?bootstrapStatusProvider.applicationConfig.setupComplete=false.
  • Review your Confluence users and look for suspicious accounts and members of the confluence-administrators group.


All vulnerable instances should be upgraded to at least one of the following versions as soon as possible:

  • 8.3.3
  • 8.4.3
  • 8.5.2

If upgrading is not possible immediately, access to the /setup/* endpoints may be blocked as a temporary measure. To do so, add the following security constraint inside the <web-app> tag in /<confluence-install-dir>/confluence/WEB-INF/web.xml:

<auth-constraint />

This will effectively restrict the access to /setup/*.

Remember that the mitigation instructions shouldn’t be considered a definitive patch but only an interim measure. Servers should still be upgraded as soon as it becomes possible.


Is Confluence Server version 8.2.0 vulnerable to CVE-2023–22515? (yea/nay)


Does applying mitigation actions replace the need to upgrade Confluence? (yea/nay)



In this room, we have analysed a broken access control vulnerability in Atlassian Confluence Server and Data Center that allows attackers to create a new administrator in the vulnerable application. As we have seen, exploiting the vulnerability is trivial, making it imperative to patch Confluence servers as soon as possible. The vulnerability has been fixed in versions 8.3.3, 8.4.3 and 8.5.2. Any newer version branches should be safe as well.

Since the vulnerability was found to be exploited in the wild, checking our servers for indicators of compromise is also important. Remember that the vulnerability has been likely used by a nation-state actor, as confirmed by Atlassian in the original security advisory.


Researcher in distributed systems, known for metaverse, blockchain, cybersecurity, and penetration testing.