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-312: Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information

Weakness ID: 312
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
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.
+ 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)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory1013Encrypt Data
+ 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 DesignOMISSION: This weakness is caused by missing a security tactic during the architecture and design phase.
+ 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

(Language-Independent classes): (Undetermined Prevalence)

Paradigms

Mobile: (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
Confidentiality

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)
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)
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)
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) {

write(dfd,password_buffer,n);
...

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)
Example Language: Java 
# Java Web App ResourceBundle properties file
...
webapp.ldap.username=secretUsername
webapp.ldap.password=secretPassword
...

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

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
ReferenceDescription
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.
+ 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.
+ Notes

Terminology

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).
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Storage of Sensitive Information
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
+ References
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/toc/5957.aspx>.
[REF-62] 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-172] Chris Wysopal. "Mobile App Top 10 List". 2010-12-13. <http://www.veracode.com/blog/2010/12/mobile-app-top-10-list/>.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVER
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships, Terminology_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Storage of Sensitive Information

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Page Last Updated: November 14, 2017