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CWE-1338: Improper Protections Against Hardware Overheating

Weakness ID: 1338
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
A hardware device is missing or has inadequate protection features to prevent overheating.
+ Extended Description

Hardware, electrical circuits, and semiconductor silicon have thermal side effects, such that some of the energy consumed by the device gets dissipated as heat and increases the temperature of the device. For example, in semiconductors, higher-operating frequency of silicon results in higher power dissipation and heat. The leakage current in CMOS circuits increases with temperature, and this creates positive feedback that can result in thermal runaway and damage the device permanently.

Any device lacking protections such as thermal sensors, adequate platform cooling or thermal insulation is susceptible to attacks by malicious software that might deliberately operate the device in modes that result in overheating. This can be used as an effective denial of service (DoS) or permanent denial of service (PDoS) attack.

Depending on the type of hardware device and its expected usage, such thermal overheating can also cause safety hazards and reliability issues. Note that battery failures can also cause device overheating but the mitigations and examples included in this submission cannot reliably protect against a battery failure.

There can be similar weaknesses with lack of protection from attacks based on overvoltage or overcurrent conditions. However, thermal heat is generated by hardware operation and the device should implement protection from overheating.

+ 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.1206Power, Clock, and Reset 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
ImplementationSuch issues could be introduced during hardware architecture, design or implementation.
+ 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)


Power Management IP (Undetermined Prevalence)

Processor IP (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.


Technical Impact: DoS: Resource Consumption (Other)

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Malicious software running on a core can execute instructions that consume maximum power or increase core frequency. Such a power-virus program could execute on the platform for an extended time to overheat the device, resulting in permanent damage.

Execution core and platform do not support thermal sensors, performance throttling, or platform-cooling countermeasures to ensure that any software executing on the system cannot cause overheating past the maximum allowable temperature.

The platform and SoC should have failsafe thermal limits that are enforced by thermal sensors that trigger critical temperature alerts when high temperature is detected. Upon detection of high temperatures, the platform should trigger cooling or shutdown automatically.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Temperature maximum and minimum limits should be enforced using thermal sensors both in silicon and at the platform level.

Phase: Implementation

The platform should support cooling solutions such as fans that can be modulated based on device-operation needs to maintain a stable temperature.
+ Detection Methods

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

Dynamic tests should be performed to stress-test temperature controls.

Effectiveness: High

Architecture or Design Review

Power management controls should be part of Architecture and Design reviews.

Effectiveness: High

+ References
[REF-1156] Leonid Grustniy. "Loapi--This Trojan is hot!". 2017-12. < >.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-05-29Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar MannaIntel Corporation
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Page Last Updated: December 10, 2020