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-316: Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in Memory

Weakness ID: 316
Abstraction: Variant
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The application stores sensitive information in cleartext in memory.
+ Extended Description

The sensitive memory might be saved to disk, stored in a core dump, or remain uncleared if the application crashes, or if the programmer does not properly clear the memory before freeing it.

It could be argued that such problems are usually only exploitable by those with administrator privileges. However, swapping could cause the memory to be written to disk and leave it accessible to physical attack afterwards. Core dump files might have insecure permissions or be stored in archive files that are accessible to untrusted people. Or, uncleared sensitive memory might be inadvertently exposed to attackers due to another weakness.

+ 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
ChildOfBaseBase312Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory1013Encrypt Data
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfBaseBase312Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information
+ 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

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
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Memory

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Sensitive authentication information in cleartext in memory.
Sensitive authentication information in cleartext in memory.
Password protector leaves passwords in memory when window is minimized, even when "clear password when minimized" is set.
SSH client does not clear credentials from memory.
+ Affected Resources
  • Memory
+ 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
MemberOfCategoryCategory963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
+ Notes

Relationship

This could be a resultant weakness, e.g. if the compiler removes code that was intended to wipe memory.

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 in Memory
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
PLOVER
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Description, Name, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Terminology_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Observed_Examples, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2013-07-17Plaintext Storage in Memory

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018