Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-312: Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information

Weakness ID: 312
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The application stores sensitive information in cleartext within a resource that might be accessible to another control sphere.

Extended Description

Because the information is stored in cleartext, attackers could potentially read it. Even if the information is encoded in a way that is not human-readable, certain techniques could determine which encoding is being used, then decode the information.

+ Terminology Notes

Different people use "cleartext" and "plaintext" to mean the same thing: the lack of encryption. However, within cryptography, these have more precise meanings. Plaintext is the information just before it is fed into a cryptographic algorithm, including already-encrypted text. Cleartext is any information that is unencrypted, although it might be in an encoded form that is not easily human-readable (such as base64 encoding).

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
+ Applicable Platforms



Architectural Paradigms

Mobile Application

+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Read application data

An attacker with access to the system could read sensitive information stored in cleartext.

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code excerpt stores a plaintext user account ID in a browser cookie.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
response.addCookie( new Cookie("userAccountID", acctID);

Because the account ID is in plaintext, the user's account information is exposed if their computer is compromised by an attacker.

Example 2

This code writes a user's login information to a cookie so the user does not have to login again later.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: PHP 
function persistLogin($username, $password){
$data = array("username" => $username, "password"=> $password);
setcookie ("userdata", $data);

The code stores the user's username and password in plaintext in a cookie on the user's machine. This exposes the user's login information if their computer is compromised by an attacker. Even if the user's machine is not compromised, this weakness combined with cross-site scripting (CWE-79) could allow an attacker to remotely copy the cookie.

Also note this example code also exhibits Plaintext Storage in a Cookie (CWE-315).

Example 3

The following code attempts to establish a connection, read in a password, then store it to a buffer.

(Bad Code)
Example Language:
server.sin_family = AF_INET; hp = gethostbyname(argv[1]);
if (hp==NULL) error("Unknown host");
memcpy( (char *)&server.sin_addr,(char *)hp->h_addr,hp->h_length);
if (argc < 3) port = 80;
else port = (unsigned short)atoi(argv[3]);
server.sin_port = htons(port);
if (connect(sock, (struct sockaddr *)&server, sizeof server) < 0) error("Connecting");
while ((n=read(sock,buffer,BUFSIZE-1))!=-1) {


While successful, the program does not encrypt the data before writing it to a buffer, possibly exposing it to unauthorized actors.

Example 4

The following examples show a portion of properties and configuration files for Java and ASP.NET applications. The files include username and password information but they are stored in plaintext.

This Java example shows a properties file with a plaintext username / password pair.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
# Java Web App ResourceBundle properties file

The following example shows a portion of a configuration file for an ASP.Net application. This configuration file includes username and password information for a connection to a database but the pair is stored in plaintext.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: ASP.NET 
<add name="ud_DEV" connectionString="connectDB=uDB; uid=db2admin; pwd=password; dbalias=uDB;" providerName="System.Data.Odbc" />

Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in plaintext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information and avoid CWE-260 and CWE-13.

+ Observed Examples
password and username stored in cleartext in a cookie
password stored in cleartext in a file with insecure permissions
chat program disables SSL in some circumstances even when the user says to use SSL.
Chain: product uses an incorrect public exponent when generating an RSA key, which effectively disables the encryption
storage of unencrypted passwords in a database
storage of unencrypted passwords in a database
product stores a password in cleartext in memory
storage of a secret key in cleartext in a temporary file
SCADA product uses HTTP Basic Authentication, which is not encrypted
login credentials stored unencrypted in a registry key
Plaintext credentials in world-readable file.
Password in cleartext in config file.
Password in cleartext in config file.
Decrypted copy of a message written to disk given a combination of options and when user replies to an encrypted message.
Plaintext storage of private key and passphrase in log file when user imports the key.
Admin password in plaintext in a cookie.
Default configuration has cleartext usernames/passwords in cookie.
Usernames/passwords in cleartext in cookies.
Authentication information stored in cleartext in a cookie.
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base311Missing Encryption of Sensitive Data
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory816OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A7 - Insecure Cryptographic Storage
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2010) (primary)809
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class922Insecure Storage of Sensitive Information
Development Concepts699
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory934OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A6 - Sensitive Data Exposure
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2013) (primary)928
ChildOfCategoryCategory963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant313Cleartext Storage in a File or on Disk
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant314Cleartext Storage in the Registry
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant315Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in a Cookie
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant316Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in Memory
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant317Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in GUI
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant318Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in Executable
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
CWE Cross-section (primary)884
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Storage of Sensitive Information
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
+ References
[REF-11] M. Howard and D. LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299. 2nd Edition. Microsoft. 2002.
[REF-7] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 2, "Common Vulnerabilities of Encryption", Page 43.. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-33] Chris Wysopal. "Mobile App Top 10 List". 2010-12-13. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Name
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated References
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Relationships, Terminology_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Storage of Sensitive Information

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2017