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-176: Improper Handling of Unicode Encoding

Weakness ID: 176
Abstraction: Variant
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software does not properly handle when an input contains Unicode encoding.
+ 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)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More general than a Base weakness.172Encoding Error
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More general than a Base weakness.172Encoding Error
+ 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
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.

Languages

Class: Language-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.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Integrity

Technical Impact: Unexpected State

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Windows provides the MultiByteToWideChar(), WideCharToMultiByte(), UnicodeToBytes(), and BytesToUnicode() functions to convert between arbitrary multibyte (usually ANSI) character strings and Unicode (wide character) strings. The size arguments to these functions are specified in different units, (one in bytes, the other in characters) making their use prone to error.

In a multibyte character string, each character occupies a varying number of bytes, and therefore the size of such strings is most easily specified as a total number of bytes. In Unicode, however, characters are always a fixed size, and string lengths are typically given by the number of characters they contain. Mistakenly specifying the wrong units in a size argument can lead to a buffer overflow.

The following function takes a username specified as a multibyte string and a pointer to a structure for user information and populates the structure with information about the specified user. Since Windows authentication uses Unicode for usernames, the username argument is first converted from a multibyte string to a Unicode string.

(bad code)
Example Language:
void getUserInfo(char *username, struct _USER_INFO_2 info){
WCHAR unicodeUser[UNLEN+1];
MultiByteToWideChar(CP_ACP, 0, username, -1, unicodeUser, sizeof(unicodeUser));
NetUserGetInfo(NULL, unicodeUser, 2, (LPBYTE *)&info);
}

This function incorrectly passes the size of unicodeUser in bytes instead of characters. The call to MultiByteToWideChar() can therefore write up to (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR) wide characters, or (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR)*sizeof(WCHAR) bytes, to the unicodeUser array, which has only (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR) bytes allocated.

If the username string contains more than UNLEN characters, the call to MultiByteToWideChar() will overflow the buffer unicodeUser.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Server allows remote attackers to read documents outside of the web root, and possibly execute arbitrary commands, via malformed URLs that contain Unicode encoded characters.
Server allows a remote attacker to obtain source code of ASP files via a URL encoded with Unicode.
Overlaps interaction error.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Input Validation

Avoid making decisions based on names of resources (e.g. files) if those resources can have alternate names.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a whitelist of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs (i.e., do not rely on a blacklist). A blacklist is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, blacklists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Inputs should be decoded and canonicalized to the application's current internal representation before being validated (CWE-180). Make sure that the application does not decode the same input twice (CWE-174). Such errors could be used to bypass whitelist validation schemes by introducing dangerous inputs after they have been checked.
+ 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
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.747CERT C Secure Coding (2008 Version) Section 49 - Miscellaneous (MSC)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.883CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 49 - Miscellaneous (MSC)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.992SFP Secondary Cluster: Faulty Input Transformation
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERUnicode Encoding
CERT C Secure CodingMSC10-CCharacter Encoding - UTF8 Related Issues
+ References
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 8, "Character Sets and Unicode", Page 446. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
PLOVER
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Unicode Encoding
2010-12-13Failure to Handle Unicode Encoding

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Page Last Updated: March 29, 2018