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-253: Incorrect Check of Function Return Value

Weakness ID: 253
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software incorrectly checks a return value from a function, which prevents the software from detecting errors or exceptional conditions.
+ Extended Description
Important and common functions will return some value about the success of its actions. This will alert the program whether or not to handle any errors caused by that function.
+ 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 "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory389Error Conditions, Return Values, Status Codes
+ 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
Availability
Integrity

Technical Impact: Unexpected State; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart

An unexpected return value could place the system in a state that could lead to a crash or other unintended behaviors.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Low
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code attempts to allocate memory for 4 integers and checks if the allocation succeeds.

(bad code)
Example Language:
tmp = malloc(sizeof(int) * 4);
if (tmp < 0 ) {
perror("Failure");
//should have checked if the call returned 0

}

The code assumes that only a negative return value would indicate an error, but malloc() may return a null pointer when there is an error. The value of tmp could then be equal to 0, and the error would be missed.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Language Selection

Use a language or compiler that uses exceptions and requires the catching of those exceptions.

Phase: Implementation

Properly check all functions which return a value.

Phase: Implementation

When designing any function make sure you return a value or throw an exception in case of an error.
+ 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
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory962SFP Secondary Cluster: Unchecked Status Condition
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPMisinterpreted function return value
Software Fault PatternsSFP4Unchecked Status Condition
CERT C Secure CodingERR33-CImpreciseDetect and handle standard library errors
CERT C Secure CodingPOS54-CImpreciseDetect and handle POSIX library errors
+ References
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 7, "Return Value Testing and Interpretation", Page 340. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
CLASP
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-03-10Misinterpreted Function Return Value

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018