Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

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CWE-266: Incorrect Privilege Assignment

Weakness ID: 266
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
A product incorrectly assigns a privilege to a particular actor, creating an unintended sphere of control for that actor.
+ 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 "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
MemberOfCategoryCategory1011Authorize Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
+ 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.

Architecture and Design
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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.


(Language-Independent classes): (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.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

A user can access restricted functionality and/or sensitive information that may include administrative functionality and user accounts.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Evidence of privilege change:

Example Language:
/* do some stuff */

Example Language: Java 
AccessController.doPrivileged(new PrivilegedAction() {
public Object run() {
// privileged code goes here, for example:
return null;
// nothing to return


Example 2

This application sends a special intent with a flag that allows the receiving application to read a data file for backup purposes.

Example Language: Java 
Intent intent = new Intent();
Example Language: Java 
public class CallReceiver extends BroadcastReceiver {
public void onReceive(Context context, Intent intent) {
Uri userData = intent.getData();



Any malicious application can register to receive this intent. Because of the FLAG_GRANT_READ_URI_PERMISSION included with the intent, the malicious receiver code can read the user's data.

+ Observed Examples
untrusted user placed in unix "wheel" group
Product allows users to grant themselves certain rights that can be used to escalate privileges.
Product uses group ID of a user instead of the group, causing it to run with different privileges. This is resultant from some other unknown issue.
Product mistakenly assigns a particular status to an entity, leading to increased privileges.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Very carefully manage the setting, management, and handling of privileges. Explicitly manage trust zones in the software.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [REF-76]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ Affected Resources
  • System Process
+ 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.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERIncorrect Privilege Assignment
CERT Java Secure CodingSEC00-JDo not allow privileged blocks to leak sensitive information across a trust boundary
CERT Java Secure CodingSEC01-JDo not allow tainted variables in privileged blocks
+ References
[REF-76] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Causal_Nature, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships

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Page Last Updated: November 14, 2017