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Regular Expression

Regular Expression Denial of Service (ReDoS) is a type of attack that exploits the fact that certain regular expressions can take an extremely long time to process, causing applications or services to become unresponsive or crash.

Denial of Service - ReDoS

  • tjenkinson/redos-detector - A CLI and library which tests with certainty if a regex pattern is safe from ReDoS attacks. Supported in the browser, Node and Deno.
  • doyensec/regexploit - Find regular expressions which are vulnerable to ReDoS (Regular Expression Denial of Service)
  • - Examine regular expressions for potential Denial of Service vulnerabilities

Evil Regex

Evil Regex contains:

  • Grouping with repetition
  • Inside the repeated group:
    • Repetition
    • Alternation with overlapping


  • (a+)+
  • ([a-zA-Z]+)*
  • (a|aa)+
  • (a|a?)+
  • (.*a){x} for x > 10

These regular expressions can be exploited with aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Backtrack Limit

Backtracking in regular expressions occurs when the regex engine tries to match a pattern and encounters a mismatch. The engine then backtracks to the previous matching position and tries an alternative path to find a match. This process can be repeated many times, especially with complex patterns and large input strings.

PHP PCRE configuration options

Name Default  Note
pcre.backtrack_limit  1000000 100000 for PHP < 5.3.7
pcre.recursion_limit  100000 /
pcre.jit /

Sometimes it is possible to force the regex to exceed more than 100 000 recursions which will cause a ReDOS and make preg_match returning false:

$pattern = '/(a+)+$/';
$subject = str_repeat('a', 1000) . 'b';

if (preg_match($pattern, $subject)) {
    echo "Match found";
} else {
    echo "No match";