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ID

CWE-1252: CPU Hardware Not Configured to Support Exclusivity of Write and Execute Operations

Weakness ID: 1252
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The CPU is not configured to provide hardware support for exclusivity of write and execute operations on memory. This allows an attacker to execute data from all of memory.
+ Extended Description

CPUs provide a special bit that supports exclusivity of write and execute operations. This bit is used to segregate areas of memory to either mark them as code (instructions, which can be executed) or data (which should not be executed). In this way, if a user can write to a region of memory, the user cannot execute from that region and vice versa. This exclusivity provided by special hardware bit is leveraged by the operating system to protect executable space. While this bit is available in most modern processors by default, in some CPUs the exclusivity is implemented via a memory-protection unit (MPU) and memory-management unit (MMU) in which memory regions can be carved out with exact read, write, and execute permissions. However, if the CPU does not have an MMU/MPU, then there is no write exclusivity. Without configuring exclusivity of operations via segregated areas of memory, an attacker may be able to inject malicious code onto memory and later execute it.

+ 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)
NatureTypeIDName
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.284Improper Access Control
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1201Core and Compute Issues
+ 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.

PhaseNote
Architecture and Design
+ 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.

Languages

Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Architectures

Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Microcontroller IP (Undetermined Prevalence)

Processor IP (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.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Confidentiality
Integrity

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

MCS51 Microcontroller (based on 8051) does not have a special bit to support write exclusivity. It also does not have an MMU/MPU support. The Cortex-M CPU has an optional MPU that supports up to 8 regions.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
The optional MPU is not configured.

If the MPU is not configured, then an attacker will be able to inject malicious data into memory and execute it.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Implement a dedicated bit that can be leveraged by the Operating System to mark data areas as non-executable. If such a bit is not available in the CPU, implement MMU/MPU (memory management unit / memory protection unit).

Phase: Integration

If MMU/MPU are not available, then the firewalls need to be implemented in the SoC interconnect to mimic the write-exclusivity operation.

+ References
[REF-1077] Intel. "MCS 51 Microcontroller Family User's Manual". <http://web.mit.edu/6.115/www/document/8051.pdf>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-02-13Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
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Page Last Updated: June 25, 2020