CVE-2023-23969: Potential denial-of-service via Accept-Language headers

CVE-2023-23969: Potential denial-of-service via Accept-Language headers
Buckingham Palace, London, UK 🇬🇧


Hi guys, this is Seokchan Yoon.

The Django security vulnerability has released on February 1, 2023. Because I have big interest in Django, so I analyze this issue just in time. To see the detail for this issue, click the link below.

Django security releases issued: 4.1.6, 4.0.9, and 3.2.17
Posted by Carlton Gibson & Mariusz Felisiak on February 1, 2023

This security issue can lead your Django server down very easily. If the hacker sends several http requests which include attack payloads to your Django server, it will be down by DoS. Simply, it is caused by regex implemented by re.split(), and cache implemented by built-in function functools.lru_cache(). Let's see the detail.

How to get language from client's request?

Using get_language_from_request() function is one of the useful and easy method to get language from clients' http request. This function is defined in the file django/utils/translation/ and you can check how to use this to see the example code and screen shot below.

from django.shortcuts import render
from django.utils.translation.trans_real import get_language_from_request
from django.http.response import HttpResponse

def example_function(request):
    language = get_language_from_request(request)
    return HttpResponse(f"Your language is {language}")
The example code to use get_language_from_request() function.
The result of code above

This is the raw request captured by Burp Suite to help your understand.

the raw request captured by Burp Suite

How was it implemented?

The function get_language_from_request() is defined as below.

def get_language_from_request(request, check_path=False):
    # ...

    accept = request.META.get("HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE", "")
    for accept_lang, unused in parse_accept_lang_header(accept):
        if accept_lang == "*":

        if not

            return get_supported_language_variant(accept_lang)
        except LookupError:

	# ...

This call the function parse_accept_lang_header() to parse Accept-Language header. We have to know how parse_accept_lang_header() function returns parsed language code. Let's see it.

accept_language_re = _lazy_re_compile(
        # "en", "en-au", "x-y-z", "es-419", "*"
        # Optional "q=1.00", "q=0.8"
        # Multiple accepts per header.

# ...

def parse_accept_lang_header(lang_string):
    result = []
    pieces = accept_language_re.split(lang_string.lower())
    if pieces[-1]:
        return ()
    for i in range(0, len(pieces) - 1, 3):
        first, lang, priority = pieces[i : i + 3]
        if first:
            return ()
        if priority:
            priority = float(priority)
            priority = 1.0
        result.append((lang, priority))
    result.sort(key=lambda k: k[1], reverse=True)
    return tuple(result)

It parses lang_string variable, which will be passed with Accept-Language header, by using regex. If you analyze the regex string to parse language, you can recognize that it allows the repetition of string which contains the character 'bar' (-). So you can send the payload below, as valid language code.

"xxxxxxxx" + "-xxxxxxxx" * 500

This will take long time when you send the payload above at first time, but your second request will not take long because of functools.lru_cache(). It seems that the function parse_accept_lang_header() is safe from DoS attack.

Why is it vulnerable?

The built-in function functools.lru_cache() is a decorator that is used to cache the results of a function, so that subsequent calls to the same function with the same arguments can return the cached result, rather than re-computing it.

The maxsize variable as an argument of functools.lru_cache was given with 1000 when parse_accept_lang_header() is declared. So if I send the several long payloads aimed to attack regex in Accept-Language header, cache size of lru_cache  will be exhausted quickly.

So eventually, your Django server was potentially vulnerable to DoS attack if you used get_language_from_request() or parse_accept_lang_header() in your server.

How was it patched?

ACCEPT_LANGUAGE_HEADER_MAX_LENGTH variable which seems like contant was added in head of file The function parse_accept_lang_header() now becomes safe from DoS vulnerability by adding the mechanism which checks the length of the request clients send.

To see how developers of Django Project patched, see this commit history in Github.

Fixed CVE-2023-23969 -- Prevented DoS with pathological values for Ac… · django/django@8c660fb
…cept-Language. The parsed values of Accept-Language headers are cached in order toavoid repetitive parsing. This leads to a potential denial-of-servicevector via excessive memory usage if the r...