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CWE-1248: Semiconductor Defects in Hardware Logic with Security-Sensitive Implications

Weakness ID: 1248
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The security-sensitive hardware module contains semiconductor defects.
+ Extended Description

A semiconductor device can fail for various reasons. While some are manufacturing and packaging defects, the rest are due to prolonged use or usage under extreme conditions. Some mechanisms that lead to semiconductor defects include encapsulation failure, die-attach failure, wire-bond failure, bulk-silicon defects, oxide-layer faults, aluminum-metal faults (including electromigration, corrosion of aluminum, etc.), and thermal/electrical stress. These defects manifest as faults on chip-internal signals or registers, have the effect of inputs, outputs, or intermediate signals being always 0 or always 1, and do not switch as expected. If such faults occur in security-sensitive hardware modules, security guarantees offered by the device will be compromised.

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.693Protection Mechanism Failure
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1195Manufacturing and Life Cycle Management Concerns
+ Modes Of Introduction

The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

ManufacturingMay be introduced due to issues in the manufacturing environment or improper handling of components, for example.
OperationMay be introduced by improper handling or usage outside of rated operating environments (temperature, humidity, etc.)
+ Applicable Platforms
The listings below show possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.


Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Technology-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.

Access Control

Technical Impact: DoS: Instability

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The network-on-chip implements a firewall for access control to peripherals from all IP cores capable of mastering transactions.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
A manufacturing defect in this logic manifests itself as a logical fault, which always sets the output of the filter to "allow" access.

Post-manufacture testing must be performed to ensure that hardware logic implementing security functionalities is defect-free.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Testing

While semiconductor-manufacturing companies implement several mechanisms to continuously improve the semiconductor manufacturing process to ensure reduction of defects, some defects can only be fixed after manufacturing. Post-manufacturing testing of silicon die is critical. Fault models such as stuck-at-0 or stuck-at-1 must be used to develop post-manufacturing test cases and achieve good coverage. Once the silicon packaging is done, extensive post-silicon testing must be performed to ensure that hardware logic implementing security functionalities is defect-free.

Phase: Operation

Operating the hardware outside device specification, such as at extremely high temperatures, voltage, etc., accelerates semiconductor degradation and results in defects. When these defects manifest as faults in security-critical, hardware modules, it results in compromise of security guarantees. Thus, operating the device within the specification is important.

+ References
[REF-1067] Brian Bailey. "Why Chips Die". <>.
[REF-1068] V. Lakshminarayan. "What causes semiconductor devices to fail". <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-02-12Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Related_Attack_Patterns
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Page Last Updated: August 20, 2020