Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-270: Privilege Context Switching Error

Weakness ID: 270
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software does not properly manage privileges while it is switching between different contexts that have different privileges or spheres of control.
+ 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)
ChildOfClassClass269Improper Privilege Management
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
MemberOfCategoryCategory1011Authorize Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
ChildOfClassClass269Improper Privilege Management
+ 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.


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.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

A user can assume the identity of another user with separate privileges in another context. This will give the user unauthorized access that may allow them to acquire the access information of other users.
+ Observed Examples
Web browser cross domain problem when user hits "back" button.
Web browser cross domain problem when user hits "back" button.
Cross-domain issue - third party product passes code to web browser, which executes it in unsafe zone.
Run callback in different security context after it has been changed from untrusted to trusted. * note that "context switch before actions are completed" is one type of problem that happens frequently, espec. in browsers.
+ 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.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Consider following the principle of separation of privilege. Require multiple conditions to be met before permitting access to a system resource.
+ 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.
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory901SFP Primary Cluster: Privilege
+ Notes

Research Gap

This concept needs more study.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPrivilege Context Switching Error
+ References
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 7, "Running with Least Privilege" Page 207. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <>.
[REF-76] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018