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Uploaded content scanning

WAF content scanning is a WAF traffic detection that scans content being uploaded to your application.

When enabled, content scanning attempts to detect content objects, such as uploaded files, and scans them for malicious signatures like malware. The scan results, along with additional metadata, are exposed as fields available in WAF custom rules, allowing you to implement fine-grained mitigation rules.

​​ How it works

Once enabled, content scanning will run for all incoming traffic, identifying content objects automatically.

For every request with one or more detected content objects, the content scanner connects to an antivirus (AV) scanner to perform a thorough analysis of the content objects. Using the results of the scan, the WAF will populate several fields you can use in rule expressions. For example, you can create a basic rule to block requests containing malicious files, or a more complex rule where the expression matches specific file sizes, file types, or URI paths.

Cloudflare uses the same anti-virus (AV) scanner used in Cloudflare Zero Trust for WAF content scanning.

​​ What is a content object?

A content object is any request payload detected by heuristics that does not match any of the following types: text/html, text/x-shellscript, application/json, text/csv, and text/xml. All other content types are considered a content object, such as the following:

  • Executable files (for example, .exe, .bat, .dll, and .wasm)
  • Documents (for example, .doc, .docx, .pdf, .ppt, and .xls)
  • Compressed files (for example, .7z, .gz, .zip, and .rar)
  • Image files (for example, .jpg, .png, .gif, .webp, and .tif)
  • Video and audio files

Content scanning does not take the request’s Content-Type header into account, since this header can be manipulated. If the system detects a malicious object but cannot determine its exact content type, it reports the malicious content object as having an application/octet-stream content type.

​​ Scanned content

Content scanning can check the following content objects for malicious content:

  • Uploaded files in a request
  • Portions of the request body for multipart requests encoded as multipart/form-data or multipart/mixed
  • Specific JSON properties in the request body (containing, for example, files encoded in Base64) according to the custom scan expressions you provide

All content objects in an incoming request will be checked, namely for requests with multiple uploaded files (for example, a submitted HTML form with several file inputs).

The content scanner will fully check content objects with a size up to 15 MB. For larger content objects, the scanner will analyze the first 15 MB and provide scan results based on that portion of the object.

​​ Custom scan expressions

Sometimes, you may wish to specify where to find the content objects, such as when the content is a Base64-encoded string within a JSON payload. For example:

{"file": "<BASE64_ENCODED_STRING>"}

In these situations, configure a custom scan expression to tell the content scanner where to find the content objects. For more information, refer to Configure a custom scan expression.

​​ ​​Content scanning fields

When content scanning is enabled, you can use the following fields in WAF rules:

Field name in the dashboardField name in expressions
Has content objectcf.waf.content_scan.has_obj
Has malicious content objectcf.waf.content_scan.has_malicious_obj
Number of malicious content objectscf.waf.content_scan.num_malicious_obj
Content scan has failedcf.waf.content_scan.has_failed
Number of content objectscf.waf.content_scan.num_obj
Content object size (in bytes)cf.waf.content_scan.obj_sizes
Content object typecf.waf.content_scan.obj_types
Content object result
Values: clean, suspicious,
infected, and not scanned

For examples of rule expressions using these fields, refer to Example rules.