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CWE-1298: Hardware Logic Contains Race Conditions

Weakness ID: 1298
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
A race condition in the hardware logic results in undermining security guarantees of the system.
+ Extended Description

A race condition in logic circuits typically occurs when a logic gate gets inputs from signals that have traversed different paths while originating from the same source. Such inputs to the gate can change at slightly different times in response to a change in the source signal. This results in a timing error or a glitch (temporary or permanent) that causes the output to change to an unwanted state before settling back to the desired state. If such timing errors occur in access control logic or finite state machines that are implemented in security sensitive flows, an attacker might exploit them to circumvent existing protections.

+ 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)
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.362Concurrent Execution using Shared Resource with Improper Synchronization ('Race Condition')
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1199General Circuit and Logic Design 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.

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.


Verilog (Undetermined Prevalence)

VHDL (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: System on Chip (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: Bypass Protection Mechanism; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Alter Execution Logic

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The code below shows a 2x1 multiplexor using logic gates. Though the code shown below results in the minimum gate solution, it is disjoint and causes glitches.

(bad code)
Example Language: Verilog 
// 2x1 Multiplexor using logic-gates

module glitchEx(
input wire in0, in1, sel,
output wire z

wire not_sel;
wire and_out1, and_out2;

assign not_sel = ~sel;
assign and_out1 = not_sel & in0;
assign and_out2 = sel & in1;

// Buggy line of code:
assign z = and_out1 | and_out2; // glitch in signal z


The buggy line of code, commented above, results in signal 'z' periodically changing to an unwanted state. Thus, any logic that references signal 'z' may access it at a time when it is in this unwanted state. This line should be replaced with the line shown below in the Good Code Snippet which results in signal 'z' remaining in a continuous, known, state. Reference for the above code, along with waveforms for simulation can be found in the references below.

(good code)
Example Language: Verilog 
assign z <= and_out1 or and_out2 or (in0 and in1);

This line of code removes the glitch in signal z.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Adopting design practices that encourage designers to recognize and eliminate race conditions, such as Karnaugh maps, could result in the decrease in occurrences of race conditions.

Phase: Implementation

Logic redundancy can be implemented along security critical paths to prevent race conditions. To avoid metastability, it is a good practice in general to default to a secure state in which access is not given to untrusted agents.
+ References
[REF-1115] Meher Krishna Patel. "FPGA designs with Verilog (section 7.4 Glitches)". <>.
[REF-1116] Clifford E. Cummings. "Non-Blocking Assignments in Verilog Synthesis, Coding Styles that Kill!". 2000. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-02-10Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
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Page Last Updated: August 20, 2020