Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-319: Cleartext Transmission of Sensitive Information

Weakness ID: 319
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The software transmits sensitive or security-critical data in cleartext in a communication channel that can be sniffed by unauthorized actors.

Extended Description

Many communication channels can be "sniffed" by attackers during data transmission. For example, network traffic can often be sniffed by any attacker who has access to a network interface. This significantly lowers the difficulty of exploitation by attackers.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
  • Operation
  • System Configuration
+ Applicable Platforms



Architectural Paradigms

Mobile Application

+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Read application data; Modify files or directories

Anyone can read the information by gaining access to the channel being used for communication.

+ Likelihood of Exploit

Medium to High

+ Detection Methods

Black Box

Use monitoring tools that examine the software's process as it interacts with the operating system and the network. This technique is useful in cases when source code is unavailable, if the software was not developed by you, or if you want to verify that the build phase did not introduce any new weaknesses. Examples include debuggers that directly attach to the running process; system-call tracing utilities such as truss (Solaris) and strace (Linux); system activity monitors such as FileMon, RegMon, Process Monitor, and other Sysinternals utilities (Windows); and sniffers and protocol analyzers that monitor network traffic.

Attach the monitor to the process, trigger the feature that sends the data, and look for the presence or absence of common cryptographic functions in the call tree. Monitor the network and determine if the data packets contain readable commands. Tools exist for detecting if certain encodings are in use. If the traffic contains high entropy, this might indicate the usage of encryption.

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code attempts to establish a connection to a site to communicate sensitive information.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
URL u = new URL("");
HttpURLConnection hu = (HttpURLConnection) u.openConnection();
OutputStream os = hu.getOutputStream();
catch (IOException e) {

Though a connection is successfully made, the connection is unencrypted and it is possible that all sensitive data sent to or received from the server will be read by unintended actors.

+ Observed Examples
Passwords transmitted in cleartext.
Chain: Use of HTTPS cookie without "secure" flag causes it to be transmitted across unencrypted HTTP.
Product sends password hash in cleartext in violation of intended policy.
Remote management feature sends sensitive information including passwords in cleartext.
Backup routine sends password in cleartext in email.
Product transmits Blowfish encryption key in cleartext.
Printer sends configuration information, including administrative password, in cleartext.
Chain: cleartext transmission of the MD5 hash of password enables attacks against a server that is susceptible to replay (CWE-294).
Product sends passwords in cleartext to a log server.
Product sends file with cleartext passwords in e-mail message intended for diagnostic purposes.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Encrypt the data with a reliable encryption scheme before transmitting.

Phase: Implementation

When using web applications with SSL, use SSL for the entire session from login to logout, not just for the initial login page.

Phase: Testing

Use tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session. These may be more effective than strictly automated techniques. This is especially the case with weaknesses that are related to design and business rules.

Phase: Operation

Configure servers to use encrypted channels for communication, which may include SSL or other secure protocols.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base311Missing Encryption of Sensitive Data
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
Weaknesses in the 2009 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (primary)750
ChildOfCategoryCategory818OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A9 - Insufficient Transport Layer Protection
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2010) (primary)809
ChildOfCategoryCategory858CERT Java Secure Coding Section 13 - Serialization (SER)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT Java Secure Coding Standard844
ChildOfCategoryCategory859CERT Java Secure Coding Section 14 - Platform Security (SEC)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT Java Secure Coding Standard (primary)844
ChildOfCategoryCategory930OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A2 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2013)928
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 Variant5J2EE Misconfiguration: Data Transmission Without Encryption
Research Concepts (primary)1000
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
CWE Cross-section (primary)884
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information
CERT Java Secure CodingSEC06-JDo not rely on the default automatic signature verification provided by URLClassLoader and java.util.jar
CERT Java Secure CodingSER02-JSign then seal sensitive objects before sending them outside a trust boundary
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
+ References
OWASP. "Top 10 2007-Insecure Communications". <>.
[REF-11] M. Howard and D. LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299. 2nd Edition. Microsoft. 2002.
[REF-17] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 22: Failing to Protect Network Traffic." Page 337. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[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 Common_Consequences, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated References
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Time_of_Introduction
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Observed_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information

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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017