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-280: Improper Handling of Insufficient Permissions or Privileges

Weakness ID: 280
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The application does not handle or incorrectly handles when it has insufficient privileges to access resources or functionality as specified by their permissions. This may cause it to follow unexpected code paths that may leave the application in an invalid state.
+ 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.703Improper Check or Handling of Exceptional Conditions
PeerOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More general than a Base weakness.636Not Failing Securely ('Failing Open')
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1011Authorize Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.275Permission Issues
+ 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
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.

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
Other

Technical Impact: Other; Alter Execution Logic

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Special file system allows attackers to prevent ownership/permission change of certain entries by opening the entries before calling a setuid program.
FTP server places a user in the root directory when the user's permissions prevent access to the their own home directory.
+ 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.

Phase: Implementation

Always check to see if you have successfully accessed a resource or system functionality, and use proper error handling if it is unsuccessful. Do this even when you are operating in a highly privileged mode, because errors or environmental conditions might still cause a failure. For example, environments with highly granular permissions/privilege models, such as Windows or Linux capabilities, can cause unexpected failures.
+ 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.962SFP Secondary Cluster: Unchecked Status Condition
+ Notes

Maintenance

CWE-280 and CWE-274 are too similar.

Relationship

This can be both primary and resultant. When primary, it can expose a variety of weaknesses because a resource might not have the expected state, and subsequent operations might fail. It is often resultant from Unchecked Error Condition (CWE-391).

Research Gap

This type of issue is under-studied, since researchers often concentrate on whether an object has too many permissions, instead of not enough. These weaknesses are likely to appear in environments with fine-grained models for permissions and privileges, which can include operating systems and other large-scale software packages. However, even highly simplistic permission/privilege models are likely to contain these issues if the developer has not considered the possibility of access failure.

Theoretical

Within the context of vulnerability theory, privileges and permissions are two sides of the same coin. Privileges are associated with actors, and permissions are associated with resources. To perform access control, at some point the software makes a decision about whether the actor (and the privileges that have been assigned to that actor) is allowed to access the resource (based on the permissions that have been specified for that resource).
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERFails poorly due to insufficient permissions
WASC17Improper Filesystem Permissions
Software Fault PatternsSFP4Unchecked Status Condition
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
PLOVER
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes, Relationships, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, Theoretical_Notes
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Modes_of_Introduction, Observed_Examples, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-03-10Failure to Handle Insufficient Permissions or Privileges

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Page Last Updated: March 29, 2018