CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
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ID

CWE-15: External Control of System or Configuration Setting

Weakness ID: 15
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
One or more system settings or configuration elements can be externally controlled by a user.
+ Extended Description
Allowing external control of system settings can disrupt service or cause an application to behave in unexpected, and potentially malicious ways.
+ 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)
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory1011Authorize Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass642External Control of Critical State Data
+ Relevant to the view "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms" (CWE-700)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass20Improper Input Validation
+ 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 software life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

PhaseNote
ImplementationSetting manipulation vulnerabilities occur when an attacker can control values that govern the behavior of the system, manage specific resources, or in some way affect the functionality of the application.
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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
Other

Technical Impact: Varies by Context

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following C code accepts a number as one of its command line parameters and sets it as the host ID of the current machine.

(bad)
Example Language:
...
sethostid(argv[1]);
...

Although a process must be privileged to successfully invoke sethostid(), unprivileged users may be able to invoke the program. The code in this example allows user input to directly control the value of a system setting. If an attacker provides a malicious value for host ID, the attacker can misidentify the affected machine on the network or cause other unintended behavior.

Example 2

The following Java code snippet reads a string from an HttpServletRequest and sets it as the active catalog for a database Connection.

(bad)
Example Language: Java 
...
conn.setCatalog(request.getParameter("catalog"));
...

In this example, an attacker could cause an error by providing a nonexistent catalog name or connect to an unauthorized portion of the database.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Compartmentalize the system to have "safe" areas where trust boundaries can be unambiguously drawn. Do not allow sensitive data to go outside of the trust boundary and always be careful when interfacing with a compartment outside of the safe area. Ensure that appropriate compartmentalization is built into the system design and that the compartmentalization serves to allow for and further reinforce privilege separation functionality. Architects and designers should rely on the principle of least privilege to decide when it is appropriate to use and to drop system privileges.

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

Because setting manipulation covers a diverse set of functions, any attempt at illustrating it will inevitably be incomplete. Rather than searching for a tight-knit relationship between the functions addressed in the setting manipulation category, take a step back and consider the sorts of system values that an attacker should not be allowed to control.

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

In general, do not allow user-provided or otherwise untrusted data to control sensitive values. The leverage that an attacker gains by controlling these values is not always immediately obvious, but do not underestimate the creativity of the attacker.
+ Memberships
This MemberOf Relationships table shows additional CWE Categories and Views that reference this weakness as a member. This information is often useful in understanding where a weakness fits within the context of external information sources.
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory994SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Variable
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsSetting Manipulation
Software Fault PatternsSFP25Tainted input to variable
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
7 Pernicious Kingdoms
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Other_Notes
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Setting Manipulation

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Page Last Updated: November 14, 2017