CWE-1261: Improper Handling of Single Event Upsets
Technology trends such as CMOS-transistor down-sizing, use of new materials, and system-on-chip architectures continue to increase the sensitivity of systems to soft errors. These errors are random, and their causes might be internal (e.g., interconnect coupling) or external (e.g., cosmic radiation). These soft errors are not permanent in nature and cause temporary bit flips known as single-event upsets (SEUs). SEUs are induced errors in circuits caused when charged particles lose energy by ionizing the medium through which they pass, leaving behind a wake of electron-hole pairs that cause temporary failures. If these failures occur in security-sensitive modules in a chip, it might compromise the security guarantees of the chip. For instance, these temporary failures could be bit flips that change the privilege of a regular user to root.
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)
Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
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.
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)
Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
Class: Technology-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
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.
This is an example from [REF-1089]. See the reference for full details of this issue.
Parity is error detecting but not error correcting.
Example Language: Other
Due to single-event upsets, bits are flipped in memories. As a result, memory-parity checks fail, which results in restart and a temporary denial of service of two to three minutes.
Example Language: Other
Using error-correcting codes could have avoided the restart caused by SEUs.
In 2016, a security researcher, who was also a patient using a pacemaker, was on an airplane when a bit flip occurred in the pacemaker, likely due to the higher prevalence of cosmic radiation at such heights. The pacemaker was designed to account for bit flips and went into a default safe mode, which still forced the patient to go to a hospital to get it reset. The bit flip also inadvertently enabled the researcher to access the crash file, perform reverse engineering, and detect a hard-coded key. [REF-1101]
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