Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-280: Improper Handling of Insufficient Permissions or Privileges

Weakness ID: 280
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

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.
+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms



+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Other; Alter execution logic

+ Observed Examples
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 his/her 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.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfCategoryCategory275Permission Issues
Development Concepts (primary)699
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class703Improper Check or Handling of Exceptional Conditions
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory962SFP Secondary Cluster: Unchecked Status Condition
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
PeerOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class636Not Failing Securely ('Failing Open')
Research Concepts1000
CanAlsoBeWeakness BaseWeakness Base274Improper Handling of Insufficient Privileges
Research Concepts1000
+ Relationship Notes

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 Gaps

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 Notes

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
+ Maintenance Notes

CWE-280 and CWE-274 are too similar.

+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Maintenance_Notes, Relationships, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Name, Theoretical_Notes
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-03-10Failure to Handle Insufficient Permissions or Privileges

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2017