Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-1323: Improper Management of Sensitive Trace Data

Weakness ID: 1323
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Trace data collected from several sources on the System-on-Chip (SoC) is stored in unprotected locations or transported to untrusted agents.
+ Extended Description

To facilitate verification of complex System-on-Chip (SoC) designs, SoC integrators add specific IP blocks that trace the SoC's internal signals in real-time. This infrastructure enables observability of the SoC's internal behavior, validation of its functional design, and detection of hardware and software bugs. Such tracing IP blocks collect traces from several sources on the SoC including the CPU, crypto coprocessors, and on-chip fabrics. Traces collected from these sources are then aggregated inside trace IP block and forwarded to trace sinks, such as debug-trace ports that facilitate debugging by external hardware and software debuggers.

Since these traces are collected from several security-sensitive sources, they must be protected against untrusted debuggers. If they are stored in unprotected memory, an untrusted software debugger can access these traces and extract secret information. Additionally, if security-sensitive traces are not tagged as secure, an untrusted hardware debugger might access them to extract confidential information.

+ 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.284Improper Access Control
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1207Debug and Test Problems
+ 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.


Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-Independent (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.


Technical Impact: Read Memory

Can read secret values if they are captured in debug traces and stored unsafely
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

In a SoC, traces generated from sources include security-sensitive IP blocks such as CPU (with tracing information such as instructions executed and memory operands), on-chip fabric (e.g., memory-transfer signals, transaction type and destination, and on-chip-firewall-error signals), power-management IP blocks (e.g., clock- and power-gating signals), and cryptographic coprocessors (e.g., cryptographic keys and intermediate values of crypto operations), among other non-security-sensitive IP blocks including timers and other functional blocks. The collected traces are then forwarded to the debug and trace interface used by the external hardware debugger.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
The traces do not have any privilege level attached to them. All collected traces can be viewed by any debugger (i.e., SoC designer, OEM debugger, or end user).
(good code)
Example Language: Other 
Some of the traces are SoC-design-house secrets, while some are OEM secrets. Few are end-user secrets and the rest are not security-sensitive. Tag all traces with the appropriate, privilege level at the source. The bits indicating the privilege level must be immutable in their transit from trace source to the final, trace sink. Debugger privilege level must be checked before providing access to traces.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Implementation

Tag traces to indicate owner and debugging privilege level (designer, OEM, or end user) needed to access that trace.
+ References
[REF-1150] Jerry Backer, David Hely and Ramesh Karri. "Secure design-for-debug for Systems-on-Chip". 2015-10-06. <>.
[REF-1151] Jerry Backer, David Hely and Ramesh Karri. "Secure and Flexible Trace-Based Debugging of Systems-on-Chip". 2016-12. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-07-20Hareesh Khattri, Parbati K. Manna, and Arun KanuparthiThe Intel Corporation
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Page Last Updated: December 10, 2020